Her name was Brandi Nicole Stanley.
I am her father. Please remember her.
Brandi lost her battle with cancer the evening of Memorial Day, last Monday. I was with her, holding her hand, as I had promised.
Brandi, the Celtic Lassie, was a survivor of childhood cancer. She was not supposed to have survived then, but her indomitable fighting spirit and stubbornness prevailed. As her older brother said, “She was too damn stubborn to die.”
This time, it sneaked up on her with no warning. She fell in her bedroom the morning of April 29, just one month ago. She thought she might have broken something, so we went to the emergency room at our small local hospital for x-rays. The doctor transferred her immediately to the Medical Center associated with the medical school. Cancer was discovered, diagnosed as Undifferentiated Adenocarcinoma, advanced Stage IV.
She had been asymptomatic up until her fall. The bones of her pelvis were invaded and eroded by the advancing tumor, weakening it and causing it to fracture spontaneously. The fall did not cause the fracture. The damaged bone simply split. She described the sensation as, “My leg just went away.”
Undifferentiated Adenocarcinoma is one of the most rapidly growing of all cancers. A disease that is not very responsive to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Surgery was out of the question because it had metastasized to multiple organs.
Her brother and I had to tell her. As an EMS student, she knew what the diagnosis meant. She simply asked the oncologist how much time she had. Then she cried.
This young woman, so full of life and laughter, was handed a death sentence at 26.
As a survivor of childhood cancer, she knew the value of life. She, and we, tried to cram as many adventures into her life as possible. She was a musician, a horsewoman, correctional officer, adventurer, student pilot, crack shot with rifle and pistol, animal lover, and loved to travel. She also grew orchids. She hoped one day to be able to see a Ghost Orchid, but never got the chance. She had been a student of Wing Chun Kung Fu, and planned to enroll in Krav Maga classes this summer.
She also loved cooking, especially Cajun or Tex-Mex style. Fellow blogger Joy of Fishes was impressed by her collection of spices, writing about them in a diary on Daily Kos.
She left law enforcement and corrections for health care. Last year she enrolled in the EMT/Paramedic program at a local college. Truly, a critter person, no matter if the critter had two or four legs. We often said she ‘picked up strays’. The poor, sick, unfortunate and handicapped had a friend and advocate in Brandi.
She is one of the few people I have ever known who tried as hard as she could to live by the Golden Rule. She lived by the The Three Sieves as best she could. Before speaking, she had learned to ask herself, “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?”
Her older brother wrote a message and posted it on his message boards. What he wrote is blockquoted below.
My younger sister, Brandi, passed away [the evening of Memorial Day, May 25, 2015] after an all-too-brief struggle with cancer. She was just 26 years old.
She had cancer as a baby, and kicked it’s ass, but it waited 26 years and sneaked up on her again while she was busy planning her life.
Brandi was a VERY southern girl, with an accent you could cut with a butter knife. She loved trucks, guns, sports, games, motorcycles, airplanes, horses, and a profoundly ugly Pug named Percy.
She collected strays…people, animals, whatever needed fixing or a home. She took care of everyone around her. She wanted to be a mother, but never had the chance to marry and have kids.
She loved the mountains, Roan Mountain in particular, and was very proud of her Scottish heritage. She learned to play the bagpipes. She loved the Highland Games and men in kilts. She definitely had a Scottish temper.
She did not suffer fools or mean people lightly, but she laughed easily and loved to have fun. She shared anything she had with everyone around her.
She had just completed EMS training and was looking forward to working as a paramedic. She loved the ambulance crews, the excitement and loved helping people. She had finally found her niche.
Brandi’s passing has left a hole in all of us that you could drive a truck through.
We already miss her terribly. This just does not seem real.
In accordance with her wishes, we will be having a wake to celebrate her life; to remember her as a whole vibrant human being, rather than a funeral. She despised funerals, having attended far too many of them in her life.
The family respectfully requests that anyone who would like to send flowers, gifts or arrangements, please, instead, send a contribution in remembrance of her (Brandi Nicole Stanley) to Blair Batson Children’s Hospital, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in Jackson, Mississippi.
They saved her life when she was less than two years old, and gave us the 24 extra years we were able to spend with her.
Blair Batson Children’s Hospital will always be very special to our family.
Thank you ALL for your kind words of love, support and condolence.
We thank you all very much, and we are very grateful to have such a wonderful circle of friends and family.
Much love and respect from all of us, to all of you.
– All the Stanleys, Ryans, McCulloughs, Clan Skene, and our extended family
Late Friday afternoon, we finalized plans for a Wake. It will be held Thursday evening, June 4, at the Episcopal Church she attended. She loved to go to church. Not for the sermons, but to help with the little kids in the nursery so their parents could attend services.
This 26-year-old young woman knew she was dying. She refused to give up right until the end. She told us she was not going to go quietly, because that would mean she was a quitter.
Joy of Fishes flew down to help me with her in her last days.
Brandi started talking about what she wanted and didn’t want. She said she hated funerals, and did not want a funeral. She wanted her friends and family to get together and remember her.
She asked for me to tell about her life. She wanted others to tell about her as well. After a moment, she said she wanted her laptop so she could show us a music video that said what she herself wanted to say. This is what she pulled up on the laptop:
Later, on the evening of May 22, Brandi began to speak. Her words were a mixture of poetry and prayer. A soliloquy. I was brushing her hair, smoothing it out on the pillow. Alternately holding her hand and running my fingers through her long hair.
Speaking was hard for her. The monster had already caused her to have problems with speech and word finding. Yet, she struggled to get the words out. As she spoke, Joy of Fishes picked up her notebook and began to write down the words Brandi spoke. Here is what she said:
Everyone needs family
Everyone needs a hug
Everyone needs something
No body should die alone
Everyone needs someone to catch them
[CS – Do you feel alone?]
Not any more.
I am not going alone, and that’s the truth.
My time is not done yet.
I got more to give.
[CS – You have given an awful lot, more than you know.]
I go the distance.
I am not a quitter.
I am not a quitter.
I will walk again where ever it is.
[A friend had given her a Holding Cross that she had held while she underwent chemotherapy.
Holding Cross grasped in her left fist, Brandi’s left arm shot straight up.
Drawing on reserves from somewhere deep inside, she began speaking with a strong clear voice]
To the women of the world
Try the best
I love you mom
Put your arms around your perfect girl and boy
Tell them how perfect they are
One day you might not have them.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Second soliloquy –
Very early in the morning on May 23 transcribed verbatim by Joy of Fishes:
I promise god, I swear to you
[Speaking to me]
I found my life between you and mama I swore that I would not go down without helping you and her succeed. Anything you need is done anything you need yours
I made a vow while I was under that I would keep you safe and I meant it by god I mean it no more asking no more doing no more … I should be able to do this I am 25 26 years old you need something I am at your doorstep quickly. Dad I need you in my life. Its my turn to give back more to you. The airy* place what he gets he wants
How do I …. oh god you know what I mean daddy you know exactly what… just please just know know get some more heat please
I want a … because its my turn, my dad’s turn dad live for this long enough time for him to find a vacation home nice vacation just go just be family all together just family that’s all I want is family OK why is it hurting so bad why is it hurting so bad oh my god oh oh oh please everybody just give me her me please just help my I’m not ready to die its not my time its not my place its not I’m not ready please if i screw up send me some kind of truth that I’ve screwed up I just need to know that my dad is next to me. my mom is already in heaven with his little satchel so many I want to save my dad my brother his wife his baby and baby girl on the way I want to be there for her life I want to see her I want to see jack get 3 years old
take my sins give me another chance I know that in need to do to change I just gotta do it you just gotta put my hear through it please Jesus please I need it now more than ever please dear lord as long as I get pains off I’ll do what it take dear lord please just take this please just don’t take me yet I’m not ready I’m not ready I’m not ready to go I several different people just please I want
please Jesus it anything show me that there is something that is there I wonderful good for my father I help him as much as I can around the house maybe not as good as i could be computer games go down slow give a woman a chance to prove herself to prove herself please and forever now Amen please and forever.
oh god please help oh please help
oh what’s going on
how many times to you get how many times do you get
I want me to have a son and family too I want to have a happy family too I want to live and I want to have my place in the world I want to have someone to call me mama as they come in the door and I’d love to have die shouldn’t be tonight shouldn’t be today I think I am beautiful. If I start hating down on myself will it help
I’m ready I’m tired of fighting but I want to see my family in this lifetime I want to see my family I want to be grandmother this all my mother told me she told me if you ever have kids remember your parents
i just want to live until i just want to live just want to live i just want to live i just want to live i just want to live
* She was having trouble with words. We believe she was trying to say “airstrip place.” We had been looking for a place in the country with room for a grass airstrip and horses, and that is what she meant.