My Resolution: Be Jean

By Alice Reynolds, January 2024

want to do differently and better this coming year? You hear the same answers all the time: lose weight, eat better, exercise more  take that trip that keeps getting shoved aside. Mine came as a revelation and like most revelations, it came at 3 o’clock in the morning. And it’s only a single thing.  

2022 was a rough year. I became very ill, and my friend Jean became ill as well. I was sent to a specialist at UVA Hematology. She was sent to John Hopkins. We both suffered through tests and procedures, poking and prodding, trying to get to the root of our problems. 

She started chemo. I started a protocol of pills and blood transfusions. We were texting each other. “How you feeling? Any better today?” We spoke the language of the sick. We could say things to each other we couldn’t say to our families and friends. We shared our fears and the helpless feeling of having to give control of our bodies to others. Whatever was going on with us was out of our hands. Yet she smiled through the discomfort, had bright words for all, held her head high, all with a cheerfulness that put those around her at ease.

We continued to text, trying to boost each other through our harrowing ordeals. During one particularly painful bone biopsy, Gary held my hand as I almost broke his fingers through the agony. “Be Jean! Be Jean!” He was saying be brave, be stoic, grit your teeth and get through it. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. 

She had more chemo and lost her hair.  I became so weak that I had to enter a nursing home. She made cookies for me when she could get to the kitchen and had a picture of my home blown up to put on my wall. It was my inspiration to fight through this awful thing. We were fighting 
separately, together. 

I returned home four months later. The latest protocol seemed to be working. I was getting stronger; Jean continued to go to Baltimore. I continued to go to Charlottesville. I was getting better. She was not.

We entered 2023. We still texted. “I’m going for another consult. No more tests.” This, from Jean. Still she soldiered on, head high, eyes bright, and a smile for all around her. 
My hero. We went to the museum and sat outside eating ice cream afterwards. She finished an entire root beer float. It’s one of my favorite memories of her. Sitting with her friend Barb, soaking up the sun of early spring and loving life. I felt strong enough that Gary and I went on vacation to South Carolina. Two days in, we got the call that she was gone. I think about her every day. So, my resolution this year is simple: be Jean. Be brave and stoic whatever comes my way. When trouble rears its ugly head, I won’t go down the rabbit hole. I’ll look up and I’ll see the faces of my friends and family, without whom I never could have gotten through that horrible year. I’ll be happy, smile, and embrace what is given me. For we know too well that tomorrow is not a given.