When you find out someone you know is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the first things that goes through your mind are not good. The survival rate is well known to be one of the lowest among all cancers. Some famous and wealthy people, like Steve Jobs, pop into your head – people with immense resources who lost their battle, and relatively quickly. Depending on how well you know this person, your feelings range from empathy to devastation, yet through it all, there is hope. Hope that they will be the one to beat the odds, and if not, hope that their time remaining will be pain-free and filled with joy and happiness.
So it was for the family and friends of Nadine Lubarsky, our dear friend and colleague for over 19 years at SofterWare, who lost her battle this past Thursday – just over two short years since her diagnosis, and two days before the PurpleStride Philadelphia 5K Race & Walk on Saturday, November 7. This event raises money to find a cure for pancreatic cancer. For the last two years, Nadine’s family, friends and colleagues raced and walked in her honor, proud members of the Love for Nadine team. Each year, our team is one the largest groups, and raises some the biggest donations. This year, over 70 people participated on the Love for Nadine team.
Nathan Relles, our Co-founder and President, and longtime friend of Nadine, ran the race and came in first for his age group, and Sam Stortz, who won the whole event last year, ran a minute faster this year and came in second out of everyone…not too shabby!
Love for Nadine raised $16,602, and the entire Philly event raised $620,496. For two years, with great hope, we did it in honor of Nadine. This year, with hearts broken, we did it in memory of Nadine.
Just one day before her funeral, it was terribly sad to be sure, but it was also uplifting. It gave us a chance to be together, to do something, to try to make a difference.
As we were walking, we spoke of Nadine, how great a person she was, what a great wife, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother and friend she was. We told funny stories and we laughed. For instance, she taught me the secrets to a juicy turkey (oven bags), and she brought me a lot of leftover brisket her family wouldn’t eat (which was awesome)! We remembered her when she was well and full of life. We also remembered when she was ill, and even more full of life.
Yes, the last two years were incredibly tough for her, and emotionally tough on those who loved her, but for Nadine, these last two years were also some of her best. Her oldest daughter gave birth to her beloved grandson, and she got to experience a large part of his first year. Then she got to walk her youngest daughter down the wedding aisle, and from what I’m told, the wedding went deep into the night with dancing and laughter – a great celebration! She got to go on vacation with her family, spend time with friends, and enjoy her home at the New Jersey shore – a place she loved, with the people she loved.
Through it all, there were no big arguments, no lasting fights, no petty grievances. Instead there was finding a wedding dress and planning the celebration of a lifetime. There was buying baby clothes, preparing bottles, and watching her grandson sleep in her arms. Every day with her growing family was filled with happiness. Every meal with friends and family was cherished. Nadine had a very real understanding about what her diagnosis meant, and to her, it brought complete clarity about what was important and what was not. Bitterness, anger, stress was wasted energy. Time watching her grandson grow, her daughters find happiness that she and her husband enjoyed for more than three decades, and enjoying the company of her many friends and family, that was time well spent. She knew it, and she lived it.
We can’t know how hard these two years were for her and her family, and I’m sorry beyond words that they and Nadine had to endure it. From what I saw and what I’m told, she fought her cancer with all she had, and accepted her last days on her terms.
And from what I saw and what I’m told, I also know these last two years were filled with love, and happiness, and joy. In a way, they were Nadine’s last gift to all who knew her: understand what’s important in life, and what is not, and live accordingly. If you do, your remaining time will be the best you’ve ever had, and you’ll enjoy a life well lived. Just like Nadine.
Our dear friend Nadine at the 2014 PurpleStride Philadelphia Race & Walk.