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With a heavy heart I am sharing my recent discovery that alliedoc, a prolific and well-regarded commenter at Daily Kos, died of complications from treatment for metastatic endometrial cancer on June 11, 2012. A tenured plant geneticist, university teacher and adviser, and devoted mother, alliedoc was a Daily Kos member since 2007. Though she wrote only 27 diaries in all, she contributed over 11,000 comments. In her early years of DKos membership, she wrote on a variety of political topics, often from a point of view that was a little bit at odds with site CW. Most recently, she wrote with humor, candor, and anguish about her discovery that the cancer she thought had been cured by surgery alone in 2007 had come back.

I’d like to send you to read some of her sometimes powerful, sometimes funny, and usually provocative diaries, most of whose titles are self-explanatory:

I have this weird fantasy, see ... (with poll) An early diary, 12/4/08, with only 5 recs but a lively thread, discussing her fantasy of creating exemplary red and blue states to demonstrate the consequences of each set of policies.

Why I can love Wal-Mart and hate Kos: A meta diary (for Thanksgiving) Before her cancer diaries, this one from 11/26/09 gathered the most recs (157) as well as the most controversy.

Now it's me who is diagnosed with Cancer - Day 1 The possibility of a major recurrence now officially acknowledged, alliedoc came to DKos on 6/26/11 to share her anxieties and to look for support. Her most recommended diary (277 recs), the comment thread has wonderful messages of love and encouragement, including many cancer survivors.

Now it's me with Cancer - Day 32 A  month into dealing with recurrence, on 7/24/11 alliedoc passed on the lessons she'd learned already; commenters contributed more from their own travails as well.

The end of John Boehner? Written 7/29/11, when Boehner had done something else to put his Speaker's role in question.

The Grieving Room: "Queen for a Day" edition Part I of II, this diary published 9/19/11 explains how difficult the past six years had been for her, coping with one loss after another.

The Grieving Room: Married to a saint Part II of II, published 10/10/11, this diary celebrates her husband, who died suddenly at the age of 49 in October, 2005.

Official holiday: Take Sara R's Quilt Shopping Day Her last diary, published 11/6/11, encourages quilt holders to do everything possible to associate the quilt with positive memories and experiences. It's necessary and desirable, alliedoc found, considering all the abuse her quilt had recently suffered on her behalf.

Plus, I'd like to repost here the photos Sara R published of alliedoc's completed quilt:

Detail of alliedoc's quilt
detail of alliedoc's quilt
alliedoc's quilt completed
alliedoc's quilt, completed
alliedoc's quilt with backing
I will refrain from calling alliedoc the “godmother” of the Monday Night Cancer Club since she was emphatically not religious, but she actually provided the prompt to get it started. In her 6/26/11 diary about the return of her cancer, I responded at length because she had the same kind of cancer as I do. Here is the pertinent exchange:
alliedoc: (responding to Albatross) And, you in mine. You are in early treatment and breast cancer can be up and down.  I knew someone who I thought I wouldn't ever see again and the next thing, she was looking good with lots of hair and no further recurrences.  We just have to all hang in there.  There must be a cancer group, isn't there?
me:       you mean on DK? a group, that is? not that I know of. But I think it's high time to get one started. I'm in, though of course can't do it alone.
alliedoc:  Yes, I'm not a group manager type. But, I will let you know if I see anything. There should be.
Please join me after the squiggle for some more personal recollections.

I had the great good fortune to meet alliedoc in person last August. At that point, I had just completed a series of chemotherapy treatments which I would soon discover to have been ineffective. As weary and depleted as I was, I still wanted to take a trip with my husband out East to see relatives (mostly on his side of the family) and friends. When I mentioned to alliedoc that our return trip home would likely take us through Pittsburgh and that we would be delighted to meet her for lunch or coffee, she raised the ante on all of us and offered us a place to stay. I imagine the invitation evoked a reaction on her end similar to the one we got on our end from my daughters, who rolled their eyes and shook their heads at the idea we would be willing to accept an invitation from a stranger we only knew from online communication. Her family was probably also concerned about the strain it might add for their mother, since she had just started her chemotherapy. But in the end we were confident that it would be all right, and of course it was much better than merely all right.

My husband and I were tired and bedraggled when we arrived at her house, somewhat later than we had hoped. We had left Philadelphia early that day, but we’d taken a detour to State College to visit an old friend of mine and her 5-year-old daughter, who I had never met. State College is, as we unfortunately all have cause to know now, not an easily accessible location, and to complicate our journey we drove through a tornado warning and violent thunderstorms in the mountains. Then, both of us have complicated associations with Pittsburgh—my husband’s generally pleasant, from the year he spent here with his family when he was very young, and mine somewhat more ambivalent, since it was the hometown of my long-time partner. So when we arrived, we were not at our best.

It was clear that alliedoc was a little nervous too. But she was kind, and fed us dinner (including corn on the cob ;) We all were patient, and quite soon we were all talking comfortably about everything. Our stop that day in State College wound up helping us break the ice, because alliedoc’s plant specimens were grown not far from there, and we heard about her recent adventures in pollination there with her kids. Then we talked about being academics, though she was tenured, in the sciences, and we weren’t, in the arts and humanities. About being parents of almost-grown children. Her sons were both at home, the elder about to take on a serious round of caretaking since he hadn’t yet found a permanent job and the younger about to return to college. (They were a little puzzled by our presence, but also perfectly polite.) About music, especially since alliedoc’s daughter is learning to be a professional musician and my husband has been one for several decades now. About the political circus whirling around us, and the little slice of sanity we appreciated finding at Daily Kos (pie fights notwithstanding). And about cancer, what she and I had each endured, and what we were going to do to get better.

The next day’s conversation was even more pleasant, and we were reluctant to leave, though we all had obligations that constrained us. Saying our goodbyes that day, we all agreed that we would soon embark on a grassroots campaign with the slogan, “Free Joe Biden!” We figured that his type of plain speaking would be a breath of fresh air in an already stultifying campaign season (on the GOP side, I hasten to say). We didn’t do it, but I do smile in recognition whenever I see the “Unleash Joe Biden!” slogan, which is a close equivalent.

Before our departure, I managed to get one good photo of her daughter’s cat who was visiting for a while:

alliedoc's houseguest
alliedoc's houseguest
The two resident cats eluded my capture completely, but I have snagged this one taken by alliedoc and posted in a comment in her 6/26/11 diary:
best friends forever--alliedoc's pooties
best friends forever--alliedoc's pooties

And then outside we posed for a sister-warrior photo. As you can see, she was several inches taller than I but probably not much heavier.  We spent a lot of time discussing the implications of losing all our hair; we had somewhat different perspectives on it but were both willing to wait it out with a minimum of camouflage. Alas, I never did knit her the hat I promised.

I am a little reluctant to share that photo here, partly because alliedoc never got to see it herself.  But it’s a good representation of both of us in that moment.

A couple of baldies in head wraps: peregrine kate and alliedoc (l to r)
A couple of baldies in headwraps: peregrine kate and alliedoc (l to r)
For that matter, you may have noticed that I have not linked to any obituaries for alliedoc in real life. In one of the last diaries she ever wrote, she provided a fair amount of information that made it easy for someone to trace the connections and identify her. Apparently some people did so in a way that made her uncomfortable. It leaves me in a quandary now when I would very much like people to know who she was: should I disclose her RL identity up front, or require anyone truly interested to take some time to figure it out? I’ve chosen the latter course, though if by chance I get a response to this diary that indicates I should edit it to include that information explicitly I would do so.

We had Kosmail and email conversations up until late January-early February of this year, or about the same time that she stopped posting comments here. I sent her a message in early February and then all hell broke loose for me. Well, to be precise, all hell had already broken loose at our house in late November when my younger daughter fell apart, and by February we were not yet on our way back up at our house. That resurfacing for us didn’t start to happen until mid-April, and by that time (I realize now) alliedoc was in serious decline. In her last email to me, alliedoc indicated that she would prefer email to phone calls, since she wasn’t sure when she’d be up for talking. She also said, as she did in her comments from that period, that she was having a tough time rallying. Now, of course, I wish I had called anyway.

I don’t know what possessed me to google alliedoc last night. I should have remembered and heeded the agreement I made with my husband several months ago, not to look up potentially distressing information after 11:00 PM. I had sent an email to her in July, not knowing she had already died, but I did not get a bounce-back or a response from anyone who may have had access to her account. (Yet another motivation for us to have a dialogue at some point about how to make sure that someone can let us know if something happens to you.)  I’ve been thinking about her ever since I learned what had happened, wanting to write something that could capture her gallantry, her determination, and her hope for survival.

She enjoyed her work and was good at what she did, but she loved her children first, last and always. One brief exchange from her "Queen for a Day" diary says it all:

FishOutof Water: I'm so glad you are feeling better  
and your children are thriving.
I'm so sorry for your losses.
alliedoc:             Thanks so much for your wishes
I am so proud of them.  
I know from her writing here and in her emails that she was desperately hoping to beat this for their sakes. One of the obituaries said that her children and her mother were with her when she died. I have been at a dying person’s bedside, and while it was an exalted experience for me I still tremble to think of her barely-grown children (or mine) having to endure that transition. Alliedoc was also motivated to spare her mother the loss of another child to cancer, since her brother had died of lung cancer only a few years earlier. Alas, it was for naught, despite alliedoc’s very best efforts. I send my deepest condolences to her mother and her children (one of whom may indeed still be active on this site) and hope that they find solace in each other and comfort in her memory.

We never knew each other well enough to be close friends, unfortunately. Cancer introduced us to each other, cancer turned our lives upside down, and ultimately cancer prevented us from developing our bonds beyond the preliminary connections. But she was my sister in struggle, and a quilt sister through Sara and Ann’s ministry here. We exchanged messages for our quilts, which Sara and Ann made for us in close succession. This is what alliedoc wrote for me:

alliedoc's quilt message to peregrine kate, 8/4/11
alliedoc's quilt message to me, 8/4/11
While I regret not having known alliedoc better, I still feel blessed to have known her even briefly. I will always be grateful for the daily reminder I have of her life.

RIP alliedoc. I will miss you.

Monday Night Cancer Club is a Daily Kos group focused on dealing with cancer, primarily for cancer survivors and caregivers, though clinicians, researchers, and others with a special interest are also welcome. Volunteer diarists post Monday evenings between 7-8 PM ET on topics related to living with cancer, which is very broadly defined to include physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. Mindful of the controversies endemic to cancer prevention and treatment, we ask that both diarists and commenters keep an open mind regarding strategies for surviving cancer, whether based in traditional, Eastern, Western, allopathic or other medical practices. This is a club no one wants to join, in truth, and compassion will help us make it through the challenge together.

Originally posted to Monday Night Cancer Club on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 04:45 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kossacks helping each other, PWB Peeps, and Community Quilt Project.

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