If you read my latest Sentence A Day post, you may remember that on 28th February I received the devastating news that somebody had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Three weeks later, she passed away.
It was my wonderful team member Lisa.
Even though I am building a virtual digital marketing agency (we all work from home), as luck would have it we are all based in Brisbane. Over the past 18 months Lisa had grown to become my right hand woman here at Front Page SEO; every week she was taking on more and more tasks, which allowed me to become more confident – and less stressed! – as my business grew.
And now she is gone.
It was only when we came back to work for the New Year in mid-January, that she mentioned not feeling well – tired, sluggish, like her brain was foggy. She apologised if her work was not quite up to scratch as she was finding it really hard to focus and concentrate.
These vague symptoms led her to see her doctor, who put her on a course of antibiotics.
After a week or so she was still feeling off. I told her not to worry about the work she’d been assigned, and that she should look after herself, rest and recover.
She went back to the doctor about a red rash on her leg that she thought might be behind her symptoms; turned it was a surface blood clot. Not great news, but at least it wasn’t a deep clot (ie deep vein thrombosis). She was put on blood thinners and looking forward to feeling like her usual self again.
Another couple of weeks and still no improvement; she had to postpone our weekly Zoom catch up so she could see the doctor again. Over the phone she told me, “I am just so over this!”.
When I texted later that day, she replied that she had to go into hospital for further tests. That didn’t sound great …
The next day when I texted, she asked if she could call me. “Sure!” I chirped back, completely unaware of what she was about to tell me.
This is the conversation as I remember it:
“It’s bad news I’m afraid. I have cancer and it’s terminal.”
You can only imagine my reaction.
Lisa had pancreatic cancer and had been told she had only months to live; best case scenario was Christmas.
She told me she felt like she was still in shock; it didn’t seem real. What upset her the most was how this would affect her three teenagers. Understandably, she was stopping work immediately so she could focus on building memories with her family. Her plan was to write them letters, and make videos for when she was gone.
I don’t know if she ever got around to doing that.
On Friday 16 March I texted to tell her I’d been thinking of her heaps, and wondered how she was going. She didn’t respond, and I figured she was busy with her family. I had vague plans of sending her a card or flowers but didn’t want to crowd her during such a difficult time. I wish I’d sent the damn flowers now 🙁 .
Wednesday afternoon her husband texted to tell me that she’d passed away peacefully in hospital earlier that day. My heart stopped. How could this be? So quickly!!!!
Yet through the tears I couldn’t help but smile – Lisa had obviously given him a list of the people to contact when the time came. Organised right up to the very end! He even said in his text how much Lisa had loved working for me. Wow.
I’m wading through grief, and yet my pain would be next to nothing compared to what her family is going through.
It’s hit me hard in two ways, personally and professionally: the loss of a truly wonderful person, AND the loss of an amazing team member.
I had to start recruiting almost as soon as I knew Lisa had to stop working, as I knew I would struggle with the workload otherwise. My other team members and a couple of friends have helped step into the gap temporarily.
I conducted interviews last week (before I knew Lisa had passed away) and will be appointing somebody by the end of this week. It felt so hard-hearted to have to go into recruitment mode so quickly, and I worried that it would hurt Lisa’s feelings if she saw it on social media, but I had to for the sake of my business.
As I read the applications that came in I couldn’t help but think – I don’t want them. I just want Lisa!
My heart feels heavy and I can’t stop thinking of how she is gone. I’ll be at my desk and I’ll come across something that she wrote, or I’ll have to do a task that she would normally have done, and it all comes flooding back.
I have trouble sleeping at night, pondering the unfairness of it all. Then during the day, I’m tired! Grief is so exhausting.
Thoughts of healthy eating and exercise have gone out the window. What’s the point?
My heart aches for her family, it is so cruel and unfair. I think of those people that are a blight on society; why her, why not one of them?!
The last time I actually saw Lisa was at the beginning of February when she came to my BNI meeting. The idea was that she would be my substitute, filling in for me when I was unable to attend – for example when I had surgery on Valentine’s Day. As it turned out she was unable to attend that week, being unwell herself with her then-mystery illness. I was so proud to introduce her to the gang, although as I drove home that day I was kicking myself that I hadn’t thought to get a photo of us together. I’m kicking myself even more now.
I’m trying to be a bit gentle with myself as I work through my grief; but at the same time, I still have a business to run.
Writing this post is helping, and looking through photos from happier days – some of which I’m sharing below.
RIP Lisa. Such a shock and gone too soon. You are greatly missed.