I met my friend Michelle when I joined a Field Hockey team in Amsterdam called AMVJ. I was the goalkeeper and she was an energetic midfielder who made me laugh. I wasn't working at the time and she had Wednesdays off, so we decided to have lunch together. One week turned into the next..and out of our weekly lunches, a great friendship blossomed.
When we met, several things were happening in Michelle's life at the same time; her father was recovering from a serious illness, she had a severe ankle injury from a hockey tournament and her boyfriend, Patrick found a lump in his neck.
I wasn't fortunate enough to know Patrick before he was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer, but I had the honor of knowing him after. Patrick was a medical student who, even after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, was determined to graduate. He studied part time, taking breaks for various rounds of experimental medicine and radiation, finishing his degree and graduating last year. His determination to finish spoke volumes about his character and will to battle his illness.
A few years after his initial diagnosis, his doctor told him that there was nothing more they could do, and gave him maybe 2 years. This is something he would hear many times, but this time Michelle and Patrick decided to get on with living. In June 2006 they married in what was probably the most emotionally intense and beautifully meaningful weddings I've ever attended.
A year later they had a daughter, Jasmijn, and in 2009 their son, Thijmen, was born.
Through it all, Patrick, was always available for advice an information. When my husband, Maarten, was diagnosed with a mediastinal germ cell tumor in 2008, Patrick and Maarten, as well as Michelle and myself, became unlikely colleagues. Patrick was a great help in the early days of our diagnosis, helping us to understand what was happening to Maarten. He told us to call anytime, in the middle of the night if necessary, and I'm sure he meant it. Both he and Michelle were a great help to us during that difficult time.
After trying a few rounds of chemo and some other experimental medicine, it became apparent that Patrick was losing his battle. The tumors were growing too quickly and his health, as it was, began to decline. The last weeks he spent bedridden with oxygen and even needed a blood transfusion at one point.
Cancer is a disease that takes away your control. In the end, Patrick decided to take the control back by deciding when end it. His wife writes on her blog (in Dutch):
Diep respect heb ik voor zijn beslissing om het heft in eigen handen te nemen. Ondanks zijn ziekte heeft Patrick altijd gekozen om te leven, om de rol van zijn ziekte zo klein mogelijk te maken. Met zijn keuze voor euthanasie heeft hij dit nog eens onderstreept. Beperktere tijd, maar daardoor heel bewust, mooi en intens. Leven!
'I have deep respect for taking the decision into his own hands. Despite his illness, Patrick always chose to live and to give his illness the smallest role possible. With his choice for Euthanasia, he emphasized this belief. Limited time, but purposeful, beautiful and intense. Life!'
It's sad to think this beautiful soul isn't here anymore, though I believe it was a courageous to decision for them to make in the end and the right one for them. I wish them strength and love to get through this, and I hope you will take a second to think about Patrick and Michelle, unknown to you or not, and wish them well on this final journey.