The program I work in has a resource and advisory board. One of our board members died just before Christmas. Patty's death came as a big shock to pretty much everyone. There was never an indication that she was ill, but apparently she had been for a couple of years. Some time ago, she had mentioned to a couple of people a diagnosis, then the next week said, oh that was wrong, I am going to be fine. Nothing more. Those who knew watched, and maybe even pried a little, but she showed few outward signs of changing health, and quickly changed the subject when asked. I last saw her at our board meeting in October. October is the first meeting for new members so we did an ice-breaker introduction question to add to your normal bio, something people might not know if you didn't tell them. I talked about the 800 pound gorilla in the room, my health, Patty talked about having snow tires put on her bike so she could commute to the office for the 20th winter in a row (she lived in a very cold and snowy climate.) No mention of fighting for her life.
The difference is disclosure. We all choose what we want to disclose, or not disclose. Patty choose to not talk about her illness. I choose to do so. The first person I told about my test results last May, was my boss, a few minutes later, he advised me to think about who I wanted to tell, or not tell, and how much I wanted to say. I decided to be transparent. There have only been a couple of times when I have regretted that. I am more than my health, I don't want it to be the focus of every conversation. When I made that decision, I didn't know what the diagnosis and prognosis would be. Looking back, maybe I should have waited. Patty choose not to disclose. She want focus on her life, her work, her passions and not let concerns about her health distract or dominate the conversation. It was her choice, as it was my choice, neither is better than the other. I can understand why she made the choice she did, I hope others can understand why I made the choice that I did.
Patty is missed and will be remembered. She will be remembered for what she was passionate about, not for the illness that shortened her life (she was only five years older than I am.)