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03 May 2010
Brenda Lana Smith remembers Christine Jorgensen
Twenty-one-years ago today… on 1989-05-03… my comatose very good friend and "605 Calle Canasta #1, San Clemente, California 92672" housemate Christine Jorgensen (nee George W Jorgensen Jr) died at 15.59 PDT in the presence of her sister Dolly Cudworth, nurse Lillian Havens RN, and her good friend and confidante Susan Constans, and myself at San Clemente General Hospital, San Clemente, California, USA - death due to metastatic bladder cancer…
Entrusted with the awesome responsibility and privilege of her "Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care," I legally did as she had bidden. With her looks ravaged beyond recognition and knowing her quality of life was no longer tolerable I acted on her awesome given authority by waiving all further life support systems when hospitalizing her. Which I would have expected and have wanted done for myself had our tables been turned and it was my looks, not hers, that were ravaged beyond recognition.
By entrusting her final transition in San Clemente to a consul and knight of Denmark, destiny had brought Christine a full circle from "Georg" Jorgensen's transition some thirty-seven years earlier in Copenhagen.
We both realistically accepted that she would never be beautiful again. The side effect of her and medicine's valiant attempt to overcome the original bladder cancer that, although in remission in the bladder and seemingly remitting in the lung, had finally roosted in the brain. Steroids to relieve cranial pressure horrifyingly undid in just a couple of weeks almost forty years worth of hormonal and surgical feminization.
Christine died positively believing that she would have beaten her cancer if it had been diagnosed earlier. Bless her, she didn't give up until after I had the terrible task of advising her that she had three inoperable tumors in her brain. It was the only time we ever really held each other.
From my first having moved in with her, Christine had optimistically had me carry my camera and pictorially record her visits to the oncology department to embellish the barely started and never completed sequel of her autobiography.
And during her final days she pragmatically had me record her ogre-like transformation to posthumously emphasize the possible consequence facing people with a familial history of cancer who imprudently neglect having regular check ups.
Chris was adamant that her "change" had absolutely nothing to do with the onslaught of her bladder cancer. She put it down to her smoking, drinking, and living the good life to its fullest, as she did to just days before her demise... an already toxic combination—she would emphasize—not helped by a predisposition to the disease when one has a familial history of cancer.
Nevertheless—having autocratically bidden me relay her posthumous message—I should add that I have memories of this indomitable terminally ill lady was just couple or so weeks before she died still resignedly smoking away, and smugly raising her bucket size glass of vodka-on-the-rocks "mit twist" to salute her dear friend Yul Brynner's posthumous television message: "Just don't smoke!"
In retrospect, the more I think about it, Chris—knowing my anecdote regarding me probably not having "changed" if I hadn't quit smoking—was probably appreciatively toasting the fact that I would not have been there to care for her if I hadn't done just that…
Brenda Lana Smith, R.af D.
© Brenda Lana Smith, R.af D., 2010... All Rights Reserved…
"To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform." - Theodore H. White