Taking the day off from regular posting because tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the death of a good friend. I was inspired to train for my first triathlon as a way to celebrate her life. After she passed away I wanted to do something active to remember her. While my fundraising efforts were not for a breast cancer research charity, she supported all medical research efforts because she knew that any disease was devastating to the patient and family. Here's just a small part of her story and tonight I'll say an extra little prayer with the boys as our friend watches us from Heaven.
When someone dies I know that people often romanticize their life and make them seem like an even better person. When Cathy died no one had to romanticize or exaggerate anything to illustrate what a wonderful person she was and how much she would be missed. It’s funny that I worked in the same building as Cathy for almost 4 years in Michigan but had to move to Connecticut to meet her. When a bunch of us transferred we all started having lunch and hanging out. At first I noticed she was pretty shy and reserved, which I am not, so I felt a little over-bearing and wondered whether we would become friends. I quickly realized that she was one of the nicest people I knew and I was very glad that we became friends.
She was one of the most positive and upbeat people I have known. I found out after we had known each other for a while that she had survived breast cancer back in Michigan. She was not far from her five-year mark of remission when she found out the cancer had come back in 2004. She underwent a few months of treatments and during that time you’d never know she was a woman undergoing cancer treatments. She came to work during her radiation treatments, as much as her health would allow. When we saw each other for lunch she sometimes joked about the Sharpie marks on her chest and side that they used to line up the radiation machine. The colors wouldn’t really match with any of her clothes. She spoke so proudly of her son, Tyler, who told her that he would shave his head if her hair fell out during the treatments and she was relieved when she found out it wouldn’t. She was only in remission about six months when she found that not only was the cancer back, but it had spread.
Cathy found out some time around Thanksgiving that she would be going through treatments again. I saw her the first week of December when she stopped by at work to talk. She didn’t mention anything about the cancer and after she left my office-mate and I both commented to each other how good she looked. We talked about the kids and our holiday plans, I’m sure there was some idle chit-chat about nothing and then she had to get going. We made vague plans to get together for lunch before the holiday break if possible and as she turned to leave she kicked her shoe off and sort of tripped. We joked about it briefly and she left laughing. That was the last memory of Cathy I have and I’m glad it’s such a nice one. She left work less than 2 weeks later and I found out that she was hospitalized during the holiday week. She was in and out of the hospital a few times, I believe, between then and February.
I can’t imagine what her last two months were like, I’ve heard from another friend that they were pretty tough. I sent her a card in January and she sent me a thank you note. She said she didn’t want me to worry that she didn’t receive the card. She was very thoughtful about things like that, especially when she had so much going on herself she was thinking about my feelings. We spoke on the phone once in January and made tentative plans that when she was feeling up to it I’d bring over some lunch. I had no idea how quickly things turned from there. Her birthday was in the middle of February but I didn’t get a card out in time. I bought a card for her on February 19th and it was still sitting on my desk when I got the call that she had passed away two days later. I was really upset with myself that I hadn’t gotten that card in the mail earlier because I wanted her to know that I was thinking of her. I also felt sorry for myself because I never really got to say good-bye. There are times where it still doesn’t seem real that she’s not here anymore, I half expect to walk by her lab and see her working. She was a truly special person and I know that my life is better because I got to know her.