Not Even Death Can Stop Deb From Having Her Say

[Every single one of the posts on this blog were typed and written by Deb. Except this one. She died on May 18, 2009, peacefully and no longer in pain, with family and friends by her side. I wish I could write that less abruptly, but that’s what happened, and there is no easy way to say it.

I’m Sis#1 in the blog, and throughout Deb’s illness, I’d ask her if she would want me to type an update. She’d always refuse, saying she wanted to do it herself when she felt better. She wrote some amazing things, even when she was in a lot of pain and taking a lot of medication.

She finally asked me to update the blog for her after doctors told her that she was certain to die. We talked a lot about what she wanted to say, and she had a lot of pent up things because she hadn’t been able to post in a while.

If you follow this blog, you’d see that Deb was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in October 2005, had a stem cell transplant in February 2006 but then suffered a relapse of her leukemia in November 2008. She had been continuously in the hospital since Thanksgiving until her death, and in the ICU since December and then moved to a rehabilitation hospital ICU in February to see if they could wean her off the respirator, remove the tracheotomy, and get her able to move, and get out of the bed.

Eventually, the doctors informed us that Debby wasn’t going to be able to get off the respirator, that her organs were struggling from massive infection and that she had developed a new form of leukemia, chronic monocytic leukemia. As I understood it, the new leukemia was likely a result of the massive DNA damage that occurred during the first treatment that put her acute leukemia in remission.

When Deb was given the information that rehabilitation wasn’t going to work, that she was never going to leave the hospital and all hope to get her old life back was totally gone, she request the focus of her care be more on comfort than fighting, signed the Do Not Resuscitate order and prepared to die.

What a difficult thing. To be there in mind, trapped in a painful, failed body, waiting for a death. But, during this time, she thought of her online friends from both close and far away, and she wanted to give you a final blog post that shared her views. So here it is. The following may not *sound* exactly like her because it’s hard to read lips but it is certainly her views. In her last days, she dreamed of walking and running, and you could see her legs moving as she slept even though she barely moved when she was awake. I’m not sure what she is doing now, but it certainly has nothing to do with being confined to a bed.

Immeasurable thanks to all for being with her on her journey in whatever way you were able. You have no idea how much it helped. -Steph/Sis#1]

Deb’s Last Blog Post:


I am writing this blog post to say a more proper goodbye to all the interweb peoples who have helped me keep it together. Who have given so much support to me through the years. Who are my friends and family. Who were strangers who became friends.

In my blog, I often give assignments for people to do. Here’s the ones that are on my mind….

1. Appreciate everything. Even stupid stuff. Since I’ve been sick, I’ve communicated with a number of service members abroad. We understand each other well because we both know how much we miss just the normal stuff that most people take for granted. Driving. Driving in traffic. Complaining about stupid stuff is for people who have no idea how good they have it.

2. Be a force for good. There’s enough bad stuff in the world without adding to it. Forgive people and leave grudges for others. Do kind things just because. Figure out what you are good at and do good with it.

3. Seek a higher power. I believe Jesus Christ is my savior and this gives me comfort. As it takes faith to believe, it takes faith not to believe. I believe God doesn’t want us to live our lives on an island, and that finding a community of faith that is uplifting and supportive to you can make a huge difference in your life. If you have that cool. If you don’t, consider it. But don’t wait until you are looking death in the eye because you will miss out on some neat things. (Love you ACTS community!)

4. If you have kids, squeeze them. And then squeeze them again. Give yourself a pat on the back if you are responsible and work hard to give your children a good life and better opportunities. Sometimes you don’t give yourself enough credit. If you have people in your life that you love, tell them that. Often. Don’t save your I love you’s for a rainy day.

5. Take care of yourself. I understand more than most that there are injuries and illnesses that you can’t prevent by eating well and moving, but that doesn’t mean you should be fatalistic. Nothing like being hooked up to a respirator to make you appreciate just getting going, doing and breathing. Treat yourself at least as well as you treat your car–you put the right type of fuel in your car and you drive it safely most of the time–you are more important than a car so treat yourself that way.

6. Enjoy life. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and as long as it isn’t hurting yourself or others, go for it. Bring joy to others. Find passions in your life that make you want to get out of bed in the morning, unless your passion is sleeping and then go ahead and sleep in.

7. Be open to new things. Listen. Doesn’t mean you have to change your mind, but who knows, you might learn something.

8. Support sensible health insurance reform. I’m not sure what that ends up looking like, but injuries and illnesses shouldn’t fate people into a life of insurmountable debt and bill collectors. I spent the last “healthy” months of my pre-hospital stay, worried and scrambling to find insurance because my COBRA insurance ran out. Patients should be able to focus on getting better and not crushingly large mountains of papers telling them that their credit is forever screwed.

9. Ask for help. This is a hard assignment. For a lot of people, it isn’t easy to ask for help when you need it. But what I’ve discovered is that it is a part of the human condition for people to want to help those in need. People enjoy helping others. Sometimes you get help where you don’t really expect it. So if you need help with something, go to the appropriate people and get it.

I sometimes think that the bad stuff that happens in life is one of the few things that bring people together. It still sucks, but maybe it sucks a little less.

There are too many people to thank for the help they gave me and my family over these difficult times. I would list you individually but am afraid I would leave someone important out. My last days have not been easy at all, but it has been a great comfort to know about all those who gave me prayers and love.

In my life, I’ve looked for love in a lot of wrong places, and as I die, it is nice to know I am surrounded by love.

10. Last assignment. There is no last assignment. You create your own assignments every day. Choose wisely.

However, my last assignment that I give to you is to take care of my 9 year old daughter Zoe the best you can. I love Zkat from infinity and beyond. I just am trying my hardest with what I can do from this stinkin bed to help her. I know she will be taken good care of in a house full of love, but I feel pain that I can’t be physically with her any more to prepare her for a happy, long and healthy life.

My friend Dan set up a college fund for Zoe recently, and I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. If you are feeling it, I’d appreciate any donations of any size. Long time readers know it is no fun for me to ask for money, but I would do anything for my sweet bird talker.

To sum it all up….I love you internets! I love you friends! I love you family! I love you Zoe!

All my love,

[Okay, this is Sis#1 again. Apologies for the delay in posting this, but as you can imagine, this was a little difficult to type based on all my hand written notes that I took over weeks talking with Debby. More emotionally difficult than physically. At the time of her death, her blog software says that she had written 1440 entries and had 9646 comments. Who knows how many lives she touched in a positive way.

If you want to know more about my fabulous sister, please check out – Deborah Greer-Costello. If you would like to donate money for Zoe’s college fund, you can either click on the DONATE Paypal link on this blog which is still active, or if you want to do it directly, please send contributions to: The Financial Advisory Group, Inc.; c/o David Jenkins; 5599 San Felipe, Suite 900; Houston, TX 77056. Please make out the checks to “College America” and in the memo field write “FBO: Zoe Costello.”

At the request of many people, at some point I hope to post here a list of songs on Deb’s iPod. She listened to that at home, in doctors’ waiting rooms and clinics and the many months in the hospital. It’s an interesting mix, and would be good to share. -S]