Meet Roxan Wynn, another beautiful soul taken much too soon by breast cancer. Roxan was one of John's very best friends. He used to call her his sister-friend, and they often refered to each other as soul mates. I wasn't threatened by that at all - any friendship that deep is beautiful to me. Sure, they had at some point talked about taking the relationship further, but agreed that the friendship was perfect as it was.
John and Roxan met in a pottery class in college (the coil pot in the picture above is one that she made), took an instant liking to each other, and so it began. Hers was a feisty sweet spirit, and one with a great sense of humor. I got to know her well through phone conversations, email and online chat. She was already sick when I met her, and had been for years, but one would never know it by her attitude toward life. She woke up every day expecting to win. I admired her immediately, because she was one of the few people who could give John shit, tell him exactly how it was, and come out of it with her head still firmly attached to her neck. Anyone who could get that kind of respect from John P. Johnson most certainly had mine.
When she first heard about me, her words to him were, "You're hooking up with some internet slut?!" She quickly learned that it was much more than that. At one point in our budding friendship, she said to me, "I'm so glad you're in his life. I'm so glad he's got someone who really loves him. It's been a long time coming. Don't let him get down on himself ok? He takes everything to heart and beats himself with it." I thanked her and promised I'd do my level best. Not long after, she took it upon herself to embroider a poem that I wrote for John. It hangs in a place of honor on my wall.
Roxan, her husband John, and her daughter lived in Hawaii (Maui) for a number of years. She and her husband were both big into horticulture. She used to make John jealous by telling him about the humongous pot plant she had growing, hidden, in the middle of a ginger grove on their property. In the early 80s she tried to coax John into joining them there, offering him use of a small cabin on their lot. John really wanted to go, but life got in the way and he never made it. By the time he felt he was ready to make the jump, she called him to say that they were on their way back to the mainland. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer, was having a radical mastectomy, and was scheduled for chemotherapy. She fought hard for seven years.
I met her seven months before she died. John and I were fortunate enough to travel to Bakersfield to visit with her and her family as she was going through yet another round of chemo. The minute I got out of the car, she wrapped me in a tremendous hug and said, "Oh... I feel like I've been waiting to do that forever!" And our friendship was sealed. Although it was obvious to me (having seen it all before) that she was losing the battle, her spirit was undiminished by the ravages of the fight. Her only complaint was, "Yeah, the chemo makes me feel kind of puny." Kind of puny... yeah, right.
On September 23, 2002, the day before his birthday, John got the call that Roxan was gone. In all our years together, I never saw the man look more lost. Roxan was 42 years old.
I walked 6 miles yesterday. I spent much of the time thinking about sweet Roxan, about how she'd touched my life in such a short time, about her deep relationship with John. I thought about how breast cancer (any cancer) is no respector of persons. It hits anyone and everyone it chooses to - no matter race, creed, financial status. It must be stopped. So, I walk... gladly and proudly.