A woman who is living with metastatic breast cancer pens a tribute to a late friend and fellow patient, Penny, who continues to send her signs that help her keep going.
Every time I find a penny on the ground, I stop to pick it up and it reminds me of her. I feel like she’s somehow talking to me from beyond, pennies from heaven. It seemed to happen more frequently right after she died but it still happens often enough to remind me of her. It’s almost as if it’s her sign to me to keep going, to not feel guilty and to go on in her memory.
Her real name was Amparo, which is what the doctors and nurses knew her as and what her medical records went by. However, I knew her as Penny. It was a nickname she was given by a close relative when she was younger, and it fit her personality just perfectly.
We met in the elevator one day as we both left the fifth-floor oncology department and infusion center where we shared the same oncologist, an amazing doctor who has since retired. As those elevator doors closed that day, we chatted about wigs on the way down those five floors and an instant friendship was formed. Our treatment schedules were somewhat in sync. Sometimes she would be arriving as I was leaving or vice versa. Even though we never had appointments at the same time, we were still able to see or talk to each other regularly whether it be just in passing or by text or phone calls.
Penny had a young daughter. She was a single mom and had been a single mom for most of her daughter’s life. I remember her sharing with me that her ex was not in her daughter’s life and she was worried for her daughter’s future, as Penny also had metastatic breast cancer. She had been diagnosed at an earlier stage and was treated, but shortly after her daughter was born her cancer had returned as stage 4.
We had many conversations over those months of our friendship about cancer, about healing, about what would happen to her daughter, about her dreams of taking her daughter on a cruise and about running out of treatment options. One day Penny called me to tell me our oncologist had given her the news no one ever wants to hear; her treatment was not working any longer. She was out of options. There were no more treatments to try.
She needed to get her affairs in order and call hospice. She was absolutely devastated, as was I. There really wasn’t much I could do for her besides just listen and be there for her in spirit. Penny managed to book that cruise with her daughter. The two of them enjoyed every minute of their time together and I know she created some lasting memories for her daughter.
We had been text messaging throughout this time until one day my message went unanswered. I tried calling, but it went straight to voicemail. The next thing I knew, my phone was ringing with Penny’s number on my caller ID. I answered, expecting to hear her voice, and it was a man’s voice instead telling me he regrets to inform me that Penny had died. I was in shock. I knew it was coming, but I was not prepared to hear that news.
Why did this happen? What about her young daughter? The man on the phone turned out to be Penny’s ex. He assured me he would take good care of his daughter and that she was adjusting to being with him. That was the last I ever heard from them. I can only hope Penny’s daughter is growing up to be just as special as her mother was and when she finds pennies on the ground she thinks of her mom and knows just how special she is and what an impact she made in this world.
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