Remembering Sandra

Posted By admin on December 20, 2010

I met Sandra on April 02, 2007, on a forum discussing a small molecule, sodium dichloroacetate, or DCA. Researchers at the University of Alberta had recently discovered that DCA may upregulate cellular metabolism and possibly benefit cancer patients. Patients like us. We both had late stage endocrine cancer, a dismal prognosis, a bent for research and a penchant for verbal tennis. We clicked right away.

Sandra’s gifted mind and diligent research were a blessing to hundreds of us on the forum. A rising star in the world of novel cancer treatment, Sandra was interviewed in April 2007 on CBC Radio. When a scientific paper led her thoughts in a new direction, she emailed the lead author a brief, intelligent question. In this way she earned respect and was soon on first name terms with professors and scientists in many nations.

In 2007 I failed intensive cancer treatment and there wasn’t much left of me. The disease was rapidly doubling. Sandra, by email, restored my health and spirits with her medical astuteness and nimble mind. I remain in remission to this day. Not content with saving my life, Sandra relentlessly argued to save my soul. We quickly became best of friends, sharing cancer homework, emailing late into the night, and traveling together frequently for medical tests, interviews, advanced imaging, novel treatments; each time building in some adventures, usually road trips.

Our first road trip was an accident. After months of email, Sandra suggested a face to face meeting. I flew to Canada, met her family, mostly engineers and automotive nuts. Stayed in a rambling house with Sandra and husband Chris, sons Mitch and Matt; met Sandra’s sister and parents; the first of several visits. Attended Sunday morning church service where Chris is Deacon (he took mischievous delight in introducing “the guy in the back with the bushy eyebrows.”) Canada was fresh and beautiful and it was a wonderful interlude.

During that visit Chris purchased a rare muscle car in Sacramento, a gorgeous racing machine with six carburetors. You surely know the story about crossing a river in a very small boat with a fox, a goose and a bag of corn. How to get the car to Canada? The constraints:

  • Sandra can evermore handle a fast car, but fears traveling alone.
  • Chris is too busy to collect the car, but I live for the open road.
  • Chris trusts me with his wife but not his car.

Sandra and I flew to Sacramento together and discovered on landing that the seller needed time to finalize the paperwork for transit to Canada. With a week to kill, we threw some camping equipment into a pickup truck and headed to one of my favorite playgrounds in the Nevada desert:

We spent the week camping with friends. Arrived after dark without the pump needed to inflate Sandra’s enormous air mattress. Got drenched by rare desert rain. Drove in circles for hours during a sandstorm, something I will never be allowed to live down in this life or the next. A tornado destroyed half the site and demolished our tent in the 2 a.m. darkness.

Through these little disasters our friendship proved resilient. The muscle car made it to Canada, long blonde hair and flawless emerald finish turning the heads of speed cops and teenagers in two nations. That was the first of many safaris, the most memorable of which included a rocket launch with Chris and my nephew from London.

While remaining a devoted wife and mother, combating cancer, managing a heavy load of scientific correspondence, traveling often, and counseling many like myself, Sandra found the energy to acquire new skills. She became an accomplished photographer. She qualified for a license to design, build and launch high power rockets, and soon earned her welcome among an elite group of engineers planning a private space shot. Sandra was a natural over-achiever solidly grounded in the richness of domestic life. She valued her family and the Lord above all, and possessed the courage to defy grim odds with optimism, humor and grace.

I never. Ever. Won a debate with Sandra, and shortly before her passing stood by her side to tell her that I had accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. My soul was saved by virtue of the extraordinary love and strength I witnessed in Chris and Sandra’s life together.

—o0o—

Sandra, you told me: “we’ll meet again in heaven.”  It’s awfully quiet up there, young lady … are you breaking something? Sandra, you were my fiercest critic and strongest advocate, my best friend and confidante, steadfast companion, source of strength, wisdom and joy. I never lived life more fully than with you, whether thousands of miles apart discussing tertiary amines online in the midnight blackness, or together with cameras in a dusty pickup truck traversing the vastness of the American Southwest.  Sandra, I love you.

— Parachute


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