Where do I begin to tell the story of a young woman who’s life was cut short by Cancer. Do you start at her birth? Her Teenage years? Or, the last 9 months of her life.
Im going to tell you a little bit about…
~Hollis-Rae Valerie Carter.
How courageous she was and wanted so much to beat Cancer. How I would tell her my words of encouragement. “Holly, Someday we are going to look back at this and we are going to say to each other. Remember when I (your mother) Chopped off all her hair went bald in unison against Cancer? Well I really did it cause I didn’t want her to feel the stigma of the so dreaded Chemotherapy and the ravages of the Radiation treatment.
I received a call end of July 1999 from Atlanta. “Mom I’m in the hospital, they say they want to do a biopsy of my sinus’. Remember this infection that it will not go away? My eye is slightly bulging Mom. Im a little scared I will call you after the biopsy.” The hours passed and the clock seemed to be showing the same hour the same minutes. Time was at a stand-still. Finally I get a call. “Mom? …I have Cancer, in the back of my eye!” My mouth is open, my jaw drops I want to scream NO! But I bite my tongue and say Ok Baby I’m booking a flight to Atlanta right now. I leave on a flight the next day. I get to the Hospital she is asleep. I noticed a beautiful vase with these gorgeous roses and a stuffed Doberman Pinscher toy. It was from my friend Bette whom I had never met. Bette & I met through a chat room in AOL – The Bird room. Yes I also love and rescued birds then. This wonderful friend when she found out that my daughter was ill took off to the hospital to let her know that my friends knew of the hardship that had fallen on our family. Thank you Bette, I hope you read this and how I’m still so grateful for your act of kindness.
The next day we spoke to the chief of Radiation Dept. He told us in a very brief conversation that she was a Stage 4, of Rhabdomyosarcoma to prepare for the worse. She was a special case. That was a children’s cancer she was #14 in the annals of the JAMA – Journal of American Medical Association. But how could this be? Not my baby, the love of my life. She starts her radiation treatments they were horrendous and debilitating. She lived across the Hospital so getting back and forth was Ok. She got really sick, I thought she was leaving me without us even planning our goodbyes.
Holly was a very strong woman, she was 25 years old in the prime of her youth. We talked one night and she told me …Mom I do not want tubes to keep me alive or fed. I want to be cremated. Please scatter my ashes in the sea. I know we will meet there when you are at sea and we will meet in your dreams. I looked at her trying to be strong, strong for her, and for me. I was a mess but I had to put up a brave front.
While at the Hospital of course another Hurricane was coming. Our sailboat was left tied to the dock. The Dock-master would keep an eye on it but we had to go and make sure it would be safe it was our home. I told her between her in and out of heavy pain medications. “I will be back my love you hang in there be strong, I will be only gone a few hours.” Sure enough another storm was coming we drove like maniacs to Key Largo, hunkered down the boat and got back in the car and on the highway again.
I know she didn’t even realize that I had left her side I was only gone long enough to travel the miles from Atlanta to Key Largo and back without rest. I was networking now to get her a flight home through the Angel Flights. These are pilots that donate their planes and time to those that are ill and cannot take commercial flights. We needed to get her to Dade County, Miami, Florida. I had no support system in place in Atlanta, my whole family was in Miami.
We rented a truck and packed all her stuff and drove to Miami. I told the hospital to put her IV drip on slow. I took her out of the Hospital on my own responsibility and had a Oncologist on standby waiting our arrival in Miami. All this driving, the cancer, the illness, was taking a toll on me. I was so tired but I had to keep going I had to get her home. On the way to Miami we stopped and spent that night in Citrus County. We rested for the night. If you could call it that. I didn’t sleep.
Next morning she was in good spirits, we spent the night at my friends. Who we considered very good, long time friends, she called him Uncle Joe and in a way said her goodbyes to him. We set off to Miami, another 5 hours that became 7. We are in Miami on the Palmetto its close to 6p. m. the Doctor calls me. I explained to her that we had to have several stops as we were being followed by the moving truck her Dad was driving.
Her Dog Boogie and my dog Minnie were in the truck with Dad. I informed the Doctor of my location and my ETA and for her to please wait for me Holly needed to be in the Hospital. Sure enough she waits for me. Holly is Hospitalized and in a few days I found her an apartment and moved her in, she was home. For a while at least.
Between her rounds of Chemo and being so ill, we managed to get ready for the year 2,000. Y2K. She was very prepared and we took extra money out and gassed the car up just in case, Y2K was so very real. It was an accomplishment to us and though I prayed every time she was in the hospital, which had become a regular thing. Lord, Please allow me to have her one more day. Just one and I will be happy. Amen.
Valentine’s Day 2000, it was her birthday. Yes she was a Valentine’s day baby and we celebrated this auspicious occasion we were going on to 7 months. I found it a victory. I really didn’t want to think anymore of that fretful day. Well sometime in the middle of March Holly says to me after finishing a supper duper 1000 piece puzzle. An underwater scene with Sea Turtles and fish with a small tabletop mountain. She says, Mom… I have these shakes in my hand I have no idea what is going on and I can’t seem to stand up without help. My heart sinks. I try not to think. I say lets go to the ER. It was a routine.
We get to the ER and they put us in a room. I was so nervous but we passed the time. We laughed and joked. I told her they were going to kick her out she didn’t seem sick and I’m sure we were disturbing other patients. We were in a private room. Not in one of those curtained off beds. We overhear a young intern or a Doctor’s phone call from the nurses station or maybe we was right outside our door. We both looked at each other and we wrote down the number that the Doctor was giving out apparently it was his new Cell phone & number. Well I see her calling and she called him and told him that she overheard his number being given out and that he was such a hottie but she really couldn’t talk to him as she had to go. I guess in her own way she was being flirtatious yet telling the kind doctor you were overheard, next time seek some privacy. We were giggling and laughing as two school girls. That would have been the last time we were able to connect and she was coherent. The Oncologist orders a scan. Unfortunately this was it. Her cancer has metastasized to her Medulla there was nothing they could do. He grabs my arm and gave me a gentle squeeze. From then on she was in a comatose state due to the morphine and once again I went and prayed. Lord, its been 2 weeks, her heart still seems strong. Please Lord You have allowed me more time every time I prayed. Lord Please take her with you. I cannot see her anymore like this. Be merciful my Lord.
It was April Fool’s Day …the day that Holly passed.
Hollis-Rae Valerie Carter February 14, 1973 – April 1, 2000.
This page though as short and as quirky I have tried to write it to serve as a catharsis for my soul. Holly is missed each and every day of my life. She is gone but not forgotten. I have often told this story. My friend a a psychiatrist in our many conversations says that my brain has accepted her passing but my heart may never will. How does a parent bury their child. Im not going to lie there are days specially around the Holidays that are extremely hard and then there are does that are not. One day at a time.
Holly’s ashes are in the Ocean as she requested it. It took me a few years to be able to let her go. Her ashes were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean in South Beach .
If you wonder why I do this dolphin cause? I do it for her memory. Holly was a champion of the trees, the animals, the world. I do it for her and my family.
For the Dolphins, For the Whales, For the World & for Holly.
She would have been 37 years old. Boogie passed away at the age of 14 yrs. on Christmas Day 2004.