La mademoiselle Megan
When I met Megan, she was holding a box of donuts. It was March 2021, and we were standing in my parents’ driveway, leery of COVID-19.
Megan had been at the doctor that morning for bloodwork, and she and her mom, Marcie, stopped by after with donuts to share.
We originally connected on Instagram. After Ramón’s cancer diagnosis, I began sharing his story on social media. I’ve never been great at Instagram, but I added hashtags related to his specific diagnosis, #acutemyeloidleukemia and #AML. These hashtags led me to Megan.
Megan was 26. She’d played collegiate tennis, had beautiful tattoos, and was, by all definitions, a badass. She was finishing medical school at the time of her diagnosis (just weeks before Ramón’s) and was receiving treatment in the Atlanta area.
After some comments and likes here and there, our friendship blossomed on June 27, 2019, when Megan messaged me on Instagram. We dove right into the good stuff.
Me: You seem to have the same mindset we do. It’s like…this has happened, so now we choose how to respond to it. Ramón and I find ourselves laughing more now than ever before.
Megan: I totally agree. I think the last few months I’ve been happier and laughed more than ever, which feels weird to say, but I’ve spent more time with my family and heard from friends and just feel like after this I’m going to do everything I want to do, and it just makes everything sweeter.
We were just a couple of like-minded folks dealing with the same reality: the thought of dying young.
Ramón had been diagnosed with a “favorable” type of AML, while Megan’s prognosis was “poor.” Let’s be frank: They are two versions of something awful. But Ramón’s diagnosis meant we’d try chemotherapy only, whereas Megan was headed straight for stem-cell transplant.
Megan got her transplant in July 2019. The process was difficult, as expected, and she dealt with plenty of post-transplant health issues. But she began to feel better with time.
Ramón and I celebrated as Megan reached various transplant milestones, still in good health. Our hearts were happy when she posted pictures from trips. We talked about the day that we three mortal humans could get together without concerns of death imminently looming.
When Mr. “Favorable” relapsed in February 2020, Megan quickly reached out to offer support. She was just as surprised as we were. This wasn’t in line with what the data suggested. Now it was Ramón's turn.
As Ramón’s transplant drew near, I picked her brain about certain things, curious what to expect. In the days after Ramón’s transplant, I asked Megan for advice on foods she tolerated because I couldn’t get Ramón to eat — something I never thought would occur.
And, after Ramón’s cardiac arrest and brain injury, Megan was supportive and checked in often. She wasn’t afraid of talking about the hard stuff. After all, mortality brought us together.
Megan: I think about you and Ramón a lot and focus all my positive energy on him healing!!! I need to meet you both and have dinner with both of you and that’s what I visualize! Me: I love your visualization so much that I felt a cartwheel in my heart.
Megan helped me stay afloat during those difficult months of uncertainty. She’d spent some time working at a neuro-rehabilitation facility, the Shepherd Center, and she’d witnessed amazing recovery.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t Ramón’s path. He died the same week that Megan (fortunately) celebrated one year post transplant.
Despite my broken heart, I was so happy for Megan. I hoped that, somehow, someway, Ramón’s death would give her more life. If he died despite a better prognosis, maybe that meant the pendulum would swing and Megan would be the one to recalibrate the odds in a favorable way. We often talked about the dichotomy of living our fullest lives, in spite of the statistics for her AML and my cystic fibrosis.
As Megan’s life began to show signs of mid-pandemic normalcy, it seemed my wish was coming true — that she had indeed been granted more life. I loved seeing pictures of her on her coastal adventures, sporting gorgeous post-chemo hair.
Then, in February 2021, one year after Ramón’s relapse, the doctors noticed some abnormalities in Megan’s bone marrow biopsy. She started chemo again, and in April 2021, one year after Ramón’s transplant, she got her second stem-cell transplant. Her first transplant recovery was difficult. The second was even harder.
But it also motivated her to live harder than ever before.
In November 2021, Megan took a trip to Paris. It was the beginning of many amazing adventures. She visited the UK, Greece, Monaco, Bulgaria, Belgium, various regions in France, and even lived in Paris for two months. She wrote a beautiful story about her travels, which I hope to share with the world.
Megan lived like the end was near. Rather than letting cancer make her fearful and closed off, it inspired her to do everything she possibly could. She lived up to her Instagram bio: doctor turned cancer patient squeezing every last drop out of life.
Megan relapsed again in June. I remember the text. I was playing Yahtzee at the kitchen table in the North Georgia mountains.
Megan: Leukemia is back.
From there, we exchanged a slew of profanity-laden texts. Optimism wasn’t the appropriate response. There was no “You’ve got this!” talk. We understood the reality she faced.
Me: I am just … nothing.
Megan: I know, me too.
Megan: Alrighty, well text me when you’re in town. I need someone I can talk morbidly with in an unfiltered fashion.
Me: I was made for this. <3 Will do. Night! Medicate yourself to sleep.
Megan: One step ahead of yah. And yes, I know. Thank you so much for always being here through this shit show.
Me: Love you.
Megan: I love u too. I genuinely hope when it’s my time I get to chill with Ramón wherever I end up.
That text hurt and made me happy at the same damn time. Life is crazy like that.
A few days later, Megan texted:
Megan: Do u think me and Ramón r gonna be straight chillin in the afterlife bc I think so.
My heart broke again, yet the comment also brought me peace. I loved to picture them laughing together.
Over the next few months, Megan endured more chemo as they tried to get her into remission for a potential third transplant. We made many plans to get together, but cancer kept getting in the way.
A few weeks ago, I invited Megan over for dinner.
Me: Would you be willing to come for a hangout soon or are you in super protection mode?
Megan: No, I’m dying so I’ll see who I want to see and whatever gets me gets me.
So, two weeks ago, Megan came over for dinner, along with her sister, Abbie, and her boyfriend, Cooper. We chatted over wine and amazing food. It felt good to be in Megan’s presence. Ramón was definitely there.
Megan talked about her upcoming doctor visit and how they would discuss possible clinical trials and other life-extending measures. But her top priority had shifted to quality of life.
On Friday, October 21, she texted that she loved me. And on Sunday, October 23, she was gone.
My heart broke into a million pieces. I knew it was coming, but it caught me off guard. It was so sudden. Even though she fought cancer for 3 ½ years and we knew this was a very real possibility, it felt as though it came out of nowhere. I don’t think you can ever fully prepare your heart to lose someone you love.
I mentioned the beautiful story she’d been writing. I’m grateful she gave me the gift of helping her tell it. As I’ve pored over her words the last several weeks, they brought me joy.
Death will always be sad, but there’s comfort in knowing how much joy Megan experienced in her last year on earth. As she squeezed every last drop out of life, she thrived. And, as a result, she left us with an amazing gift.
I’m not focused on what Megan didn’t do because I’m flooded with memories of everything she did.
Megan blessed us with the knowledge that she did the damn thing. So, while I am sad that she’s gone, I’m grateful to have been a small part of a life well lived.
And I do hope Megan and Ramón are straight “chillin.”