The worst thing in the last month was the passing of our very good friend, Rita. Rita was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer a couple of years ago, just before Christmas. She would not put a damper on anyone's Christmas so she didn't tell anyone until after the holidays. She elected to go to Moffitt Cancer center and enter a rigorous treatment of seven weeks of daily radiation and weekly chemotherapy. The cancer shrunk tremendously and Rita was feeling pretty good. She and her life-long friend Barbara dug into their bucket list to complete a river tour of Holland in the spring. They had a marvelous time and chose the perfect time of year to see all the flowers.
Coming home, Rita was scheduled for another scan and this showed a very small cancer still in her lung. The doctors at Moffitt were certain that it could be contained with a much smaller chemotherapy every three weeks. Rita was having some problem with fluid in her lungs but was otherwise in good spirits. As her designated driver, I took her to Moffitt so the doctor could give her the options. She chose the modified chemo route and and had her infusion then. Returning home she had a few very good days and a few not so good days. Then she wouldn't eat. Barb, her house mate and best friend called me early Thursday morning, the 14th. She was extremely upset because Rita was "gurgling" and would not allow Barb to call 911. Barb wanted Helen to go down there immediately, only Helen was at the hospital volunteering. Barb and I had discussed this scenario before and had decided that if Barb felt a 911 call or a doctor's visit was needed, it would be done. She was taken to the Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville and I am most impressed with the staff and service there. While everyone seemed to be focused on the cancer, her urgent problem was pulmonary edema, fluid in the lungs. It's sometimes tied to loss of heart function and called congestive heart failure. It can also be caused by breathing toxic fumes or from radiation! Since her cancer was located in the lungs and she got radiation five days a week for seven weeks, and since she left Moffitt with a cough. I will always wonder.
Rita was on oxygen and was starting to fail, becoming less communicative as days passed. She demanded to be taken off life support, so the IV drips and oxygen were stopped. On Sunday the 17th, we said good bye as we left and it was the last words she spoke. Helen and I had our older son and his sons for the weekend, extending into Monday, so we decided to split the day at the hospital. I went first and I could not believe that this was the same Rita that I saw yesterday. She was given morphine every hour to ensure that she was in no discomfort. She passed away peacefully at about 1:30 PM. It hit me a lot harder than I thought it would, though I have never been there when someone passed away.
Rita Lang 2-8-1928 to 7-18-2011
Now....for the rest of the story...
About 10 years ago,Helen retired as a dental hygienist and for some reason wanted me to meet these two patients of hers, Barbara Kennedy and Rita Lang. Being that I am already old and these "girls" were 10 or 15 years MY senior, I was less than thrilled. We met at the Applebee's
in Crystal River and our lives changed forever. Eventually they became our closest friends. I was not prepared for their depth of interests. The "older" women in my life were only interested in TV and Bingo. Rita and Barb were world travelers and had been to every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Barbara's travel scrapbooks are marvels. When we said we were going to Alaska, she broke out her Alaska scrapbook and lent it to us for research. Awesome.
Rita started out in a poorer section of New York, but she had a fortitude that took her far. After graduating from Penn State, she took a job as an English teacher, but not in the suburbs of New York, but rural Mississippi. Not finding that to her liking she got a job as a stewardess on an airline I can't recall. Rita would regale us with the exploits of a stewardess in 1950 aviation, flying celebrities to L.A., Las Vegas, and New Orleans. I can't be sure, but I think Rita was a party animal. She mentions the time she flew with Zsa Zsa Gabor and all the stewardesses got to try on her very expensive fur coat. Rita also mentions the great times she had partying in New Orleans, but she's was not forthcoming with the details.
Later in life Rita became a supervisor in the state rehab offices. As a hobby, she was into photography and eventually did that semi professionally. At one tine she had a fortune tied up in Nikon cameras and accessories. This is where she and I found the greatest bond. Having long since given up her heavy Nikons, she and Barb were using simple cameras. At this point we were visited by my cousin Paula from California and I was impressed with the camera her husband, Carlos, was using. Within a week or so I had one, a SONY DSC-H10. A few weeks later Rita had the newer DSC-H20 and shortly thereafter bough one for Barb.
Our trip to Alaska showed us that we didn't have enough camera for all the wildlife we saw and after a lot of research I bought a Canon T21, with extra lenses and accessories. I emailed the pictures of my new camera to Rita and she wanted to see if ASAP. She wasn't going to buy one as she had no need. For her the heavy single lens reflex cameras were not considered. I drove to Homosassa and showed her my new toy. Her eyes lit up! It wasn't heavy at all. I left their house an our later with my camera in my hand, but I did use their computer to order identical sets for her and Barb. This would be the last camera that she would have any interest in........yeah.
It was always a running joke with Rita about what she would buy and what she wouldn't. Barb would call me from vacation somewhere saying that Rita was eyeing a watch, but was reluctant to buy. She'd put Rita on and I'd tell Rita that if she could afford it and if it would bring her joy, buy it! And she did. This same situation would play over a number of times in our relationship.
About a month ago, another friend of Rita's got the photography bug and was producing some pretty good pictures with an older camera. This friend, Alana, liked our cameras and went on line to find the best deal. Alana got the newest version, the Canon T3i. Well, I was impressed and Rita was impressed, but it was not worth buying a new camera for the few upgrades. Then I found that here was a market for the T2i body, and by selling my camera body I could upgrade to the newer camera for about $150.00, so I did. Rita was home recovering when I brought the camera over. Helen was sitting with her while Barb ran some errands. Rita showed no interest in the camera. Then Helen left. Rita sat up, here eyes sparkled and she said"OK, she's gone gimme the camera. For a little while she was the same Rita we have come to love. Although she said that she had no interest in another camera, she told me that she would have me list her camera body on Ebay so she could upgrade as well.
That's the thing about Rita. There is a saying that goes....you're as old as you feel. With Rita, when she felt good she was a young, vibrant woman living in an older shell.
Helen and I are extremely privileged that she spent part of her journey with us.
Rita and her boyfriend
At the Life South Picnic
Just vamping for the camera. Trying out a new look for vacation.