Gray Emory Coale

My sister Gray was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in November of ‘09. Gray never asked the Doctor about prognosis, never Googled. She went about her life. I had a lot of ideas early on about how she should deal with her cancer, but I managed to keep my mouth shut and follow her lead.

Lead she did. Gray worked her way through chemo (Gemzar, Tarceva and Cisplatin), never lost any hair, never lost her appetite, managed to fold all the medical appointments into her approach to life. (Made a lot of new friends, chemo-suite folk, doctors, nurses, custodians, ultra-sound and radiation therapy techs. She’d ask them about themselves and remember their info.)

We all think of denial as a bad thing, I think Freud taught us to do that, and then Elisabeth Kübler-Ross didn’t exactly promote the value of denial. But I read an article recently in the Washington Post which touted the benefit of denial with a diagnosis that borders on a death sentence.

I wanted to tell my friends and family about Gray’s diagnosis, asked her if that was all right; she said no. She wanted the same interaction with the world that she’d always had. I largely honored her request.

Gray’s quality of life was good for 13 months after diagnosis, but a month ago, the pancreatic cancer figured out the mechanics of metastasis, spread to her liver, stomach, lungs, and bone. Secondary to that spread, she got massive edema in her legs. For the first time, her mobility was compromised.

She went in to consult with her oncologist February 7 and understood there was nothing curative left in the pharmacopoeia to try. She went to hospice that same day, switching from curative to palliative care. She said she felt safe in hospice.

No pain, no fear.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
July 11, 1951-February 25, 2011
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