Friday, September 19, 2008


If you've visited me in B-game, you've probably met Cathy. She lived across the hall from us and was a dear friend of my Mom's before I moved in and a dear friend of us both thereafter. She, another woman down the hall, Harmony, Cathy's best friend June, and my Mom would get together nearly every night, in their PJ's and drink tea and chat. Amazingly, they all had so much in common- including 3 being nurses (all but my Mom), all having worked for Pan Am Airlines (all but Harmony) and all being Canadian (all but June). I called them the Golden Girls and took much solace knowing that my Mom lived in such a friendly environment where she could not only rely on her neighbors for the bare essentials, but almost lived in a dormitory-style environment, where loneliness was never much of an option.

When I moved here, I knew that Cathy had been battling breast cancer, but she was beating it. This photo was taken a few months ago- her hair at somewhat the same stage mine is at right now. Unfortunately, the cancer spread from her breast to her lungs and further to her lymph nodes. In recent months, she developed tumors on her head, outside her skull. Still, everything seemed treatable. There was radiation and chemotherapy planned. She was hopeful. I had just set up her new laptop and she was SO excited to start using it. She was planning on going on a New England fall foliage adventure this month.

I went away for a few days last week and when I came back, Cathy had done a 180. She was completely doped up on morphine, a hospice nurse was coming daily, and her friends and family were preparing for the end. I was shocked. Then, I was hopeful again. I mean, so she's on a lot of drugs to help with the pain? I was on so many drugs that I have about a 2-week memory blank from May, but I came back. Cathy will be no different.

I was naive. Cathy died this afternoon. My Mom and I came back from my own sobering doctor's appointment to see two men in suits walking down the hall from her apartment. My Mom stopped dead in her tracks and I, even having watching every season of Six Feet Under, didn't understand who those men were until Harmony came out of the door and told us that Cathy had passed away at 3:00 that afternoon and those men, of course, were there to take her body away.

I'd never seen a dead body before, but it wasn't scary or disturbing. I was glad to get to see her one more time before they took her, to stroke her blanched hands and kiss her temple. The loss of Cathy in our lives is going to be huge. She was an extremely special person, as kind as anyone I've ever known, so grateful for the tiniest of pleasures, for the tiniest of blessings. Her last name is Reveler and boy, did she revel. She loved being around my friends and somehow remembered everyone's name and details. I know that those of you who've met her can testify to this. I am a little bit in shock still, I think, but take comfort in the beauty of who she was, in my luck in getting to know her, and that she is no longer in pain.

This has been a cancer-saturated day.

First, I had to go to the nail salon because there is a woman there who is (in my experience) an expert in dealing with chemotherapy-afflicted toenails. She is this way because her 2-year-old has brain cancer. She insists I come in and she cleans up my dying nails, preventing and healing in-growns, and releasing the hardened dead nails from the new healthy ones- all without pain to me. And she will not take any money from me for this. We always talk about Katie, her baby daughter. She's currently at UCSF getting radiation.

Then, I played tennis with my friend Bess and found out that this little angel, Sophia, who I had met at Easter this year, had died from leukemia this week. She was diagnosed when she was two and died this week at age 7. She was one of the most beautiful children I'd ever met: bright green eyes, curly dark hair, and a shy sweet smile that called for love at first sight. I'm not sure if she was ever eligible for a bone marrow transplant, but, being a mix of african-american and white, her mother had told me that they'd had difficulty finding a match. Bess said her funeral was made into a celebration, with tons of children in attendance and everyone encouraged to wear bright colors and be grateful for sweet Sophia's LIFE.

Then, I went to my own clinic appointment, which I will write more about later. It seems like these souls deserve, at minimum, all the attention of a post. Cancer. Sometimes it feels like more than we can fight.


Ms. Schrepfer said...

Erica, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. Your hope and joy throughout your illness has been truly inspiring, yet the hits just keep coming. You and Cathy and the golden girls are in my thoughts and prayers.

Red Kate

Georg, Stephanie & Liam said...

may you find comfort in mindful meditation and in the arms of family and friends. Life truely isn't fair. Thank you for your honesty and openness through out the past two years as you've allowed even strangers to be apart of your private and personal experiences.
PS Tell Leslie we are cheering her on and hope her training is going well!

Samina said...

oh. oh oh oh. cathy. when i came to visit she also had her best friend-cum-sister's daughter staying with her - jaci and her were supposed to meet up in NYC. i am sad. as soon as i saw her picture on your post i thought 'oh no....'. mamasan i especially feel for you. i saw what a blessing it was for you to have each other. may your spirit find peace, cathy.

and sophia. oh erica, i hate cancer. understatement of the year.

Addie said...

I wish I could help you fight, my friend. Still thinking of you and sending prayers your way every day. By the way, one of my friends here in Boston (I don't think you ever met her) is a potential match for someone and she is SO excited about it. She registered based on a plea I sent out after your relapse - so look how you have inspired others! Missing you MUCHO!

christina said...

erica, words cannot express how sorry i am to hear about cathy. your mom, the golden girls and you are in my thoughts today.

Anna said...

Hi luv,

I'm so sorry to hear about Cathy's passing. From the brief encounter I had with her at your place, I could tell she was a very sweet person. Much love and hugs from the border.


Anonymous said...

Oh E... what a loss! Cathy was truly a golden girl, so warm, so giving, such a beautiful soul. I'm devastated. I will never forget how we ate Swiss cookies with her and how her smiling, bright personality lit our Chinese dinner on my last night in SF - in spite of the terrible news she had just received. She was an angel. E, I'm so, so sorry. Please send my warmest wishes to your mom and the other golden girls. Much love from Z├╝rich. G.

Harmony said...

Dearest Erica- Although I am so sad and find my thoughts returning to Cathy you made me smile! I feel that God was smiling down on me the day He led me to apt. # 307! I cannot begin to tell you how much my girls mean to me including you, Susan and Jackie. Our Cathy will never leave us as she will always be with us in spirit!

Thank-you for writing such a wonderful post and talking about our fun times together!

Harmony, aka one of the Golden Girls.