It’s a rare sunny day in Chicago today, and somehow, that just feels wrong. The world should be weeping with us, me and my sisters, as we mourn the loss of our beloved Tracy Santos, known as Tink.
Our beautiful Tink, gone at the age of 30.
I, as many others did, got to know Tracy better through Facebook. She was a fierce animal lover, with a varied collection of rescued animals, from dogs to cats and everything in between – her furbabies as she called them. She was devoted and passionate about everything in life, including her husband Romeo, and their desire to have a baby, and her Baltimore Orioles. Being a Bat Girl last year was one of the greatest days of her life. She and I laughed about my own Bat Girl experience – my perils, as she called them – yet that was just something else for us to bond over.
When our sisterhood was rocked last week by one bit of bad news after another – Sally finding mets, our other Stage 4 sisters not doing so well – this was what Tracy posted on our Facebook page:
“I know there's been a lot of crappy news here lately and I know how easy it is to get angry and discouraged (been there recently,lol), but I thought we all could use a little pick me up. Just to remember that we're all here, holding each other up, sending love, prayers, support, friendship, etc. That we can all get through all of this crap together and how lucky we are to have found each other. A French Proverb says "One may go a long way after one is tired", I know we're all tired, I certainly am...but I'm also amazed at how far I can keep going. Hang in there ladies...much love to you all!”
I looked up that proverb so that I would remember it always, because it seemed so profound. Tracy was diagnosed as Stage 4 right off the bat, yet you’d never know it by talking to her – her focus was always on others, her husband, her pets, animal rights in general – everything that she believed in so fiercely. She posted the above just 9 days ago. Nine fucking days. And now she’s gone.
Some of our non-cancer friends wonder how and why we do it – why do we maintain these friendships if we know that inevitably they’ll cause us so much grief?
Yet I ask, how can we not? Some of us are lucky enough to have had the support of friends and family throughout, but there are just as many with heartbreaking stories of friends AND close family members who “couldn’t deal” with the cancer – it was “too hard” for them to visit their sick friend in the hospital, and all sorts of other bullshit excuses. So how can those of us who know what it’s like and how important it is to have that support and comfort turn away?
Yet this isn’t to say that we do this out of obligation. It’s a duty in a way, a sacred one, to shepherd our sisters all along this shitcan journey that is cancer. A duty and a privilege – to me it’s an honor, to be allowed into these women’s lives as they’re facing their toughest battle, their darkest days, their most scary moments. This is when we turn to and need each other.
And yes, it’s hard. It’s damn hard, and it never gets easier. But we stick together – that’s just what we do. I liken it to what soldiers in wartime must go through – we’ve faced the specter of death and our own mortality, and if we make it through, we’re scarred, mentally and physically. We pop Ativan like it’s candy, we teledrink until the cows come home, we cry and laugh together. And we safeguard the memories of our sisters. This to me is the most important part, to make sure that our sisters are never forgotten. That we let the world know that they mattered, dammit, they mattered. They were here for far too short a time, but they will never be forgotten.
I’m crying too much now to go on, but I will say this – Tink, you went a far far way long after most people would have been too tired to go on. And we thank you and love you for it. Rest in peace now, our sweet sister, rest in peace.