My sister, Nancy Carver Adams, lost an astonishingly brief battle with lung cancer Monday night. Her death came as a terrible shock. She was not a smoker, and it was the flu and pneumonia that took her to the hospital, where the cancer was discovered. She had only just been diagnosed a couple of weeks ago—and had started immunotherapy a few days before. The prognosis was uncertain, but we thought we might have her for another year or two, anyway. An issue had developed of fluid buildup in one lung, but it was being managed, she thought. She was emailing and texting family members just a few hours earlier in the day. And then, in the evening she stopped breathing or her heart stopped, and they were unable to bring her around. She was gone, just like that.
This came as a shock on several levels, beyond the obvious. Our brother Chuck was diagnosed with his own cancer last fall, and has been on a chemo regimen that has us guardedly hopeful. Nancy and I were most concerned about how to support Chuck and his wife Youngmee through a tough period. We had no inkling that Nancy also had cancer, and that we’d lose her in such a blindingly short time.
Nancy was my half-sister, my father’s daughter from a first marriage. I didn’t grow up with her, but we started to know each other around the time that I was finishing high school, and over the years, we developed a real brother-sister relationship—partly because she was so determined to get to know her emotionally clueless younger brother. She and my mom became quite close, and I think that helped.
Nancy had two lovely daughters, Karen and Lyn, both of whom have families of their own. She also left behind a much-loved husband, also named Chuck, an old high school friend with whom she reconnected after the death of her previous husband, and married just four and a half years ago. They had not long ago settled into an extended care community in Florida, where they could relax and enjoy their golden years.
Life can be cruel that way.
I’ll be attending the funeral in a few days with my own family, and look forward very much to reconnecting with hers. That part’s good.
Here’s Nancy with my brother Chuck and me, at her wedding in 2012.