Sometime in there, she met a guy named Scott, and on their one year anniversary, he took her out to dinner. He made a mix CD of songs that were important to them and played it in the car. When they got home, he asked her to pop it out and bring it inside. She hit eject and "will you marry me" was written on the CD.
At their wedding, Scott's brother suffered a massive stroke and they weren't sure he would even live. He did, though recovery took years. Three weeks after the wedding, Scott's mom died.
It was a bizarre mix of very happy and very, very sad times.
In July 2005 she was diagnosed with brainstem glioma. The tumor sat right on top of her optic nerve, which meant her vision would come and go. It also meant that the tumor was completely inoperable. She had six weeks of chemo and radiation, and the tumor shrunk significantly.
I don't want to make it sound easy -- it definitely wasn't. She lost her hair, she lost an incredible amount of weight and then she puffed up like a balloon. (I remember her sitting on my desk one day crying that her size four pants no longer fit. The look on my face betrayed my thoughts, and that made her laugh.) She eventually was too tired to work and had to quit.
I switched jobs myself a few weeks after that, but we continued to stay in touch. I don't want to oversell it here, we weren't BFFs, but we were friends and we kept in touch, had lunch every few months, exchanged emails, whatever.
Anyway, eventually the tumor shrunk and Cathy got strong again and, believe it or not, life went back to normal.
Her daughter Juliet was born around the same time as Addison. I remember meeting her for lunch at North Park once and then going shopping for ridiculously overpriced Highland Park boutique baby clothes. It was pretty awesome. I also remember getting to hold Juliet and feed her while we had lunch at Nordstroms. And I remember being at Maggianos and showing Juliet how to get water out of a straw.
At the end of 2008, Cathy got pregnant with her son, Benjamin. About six months into the pregnancy, she started to lose her balance, and her vision started going double. The tumor was back.
Because of her pregnancy, there was very little that could be done. Cathy gave birth via a planned c-section in July 2009 and one week later, she started six months of chemo. It helped.
Until it didn't.
In January 2010, her balance and coordination just...disappeared. Like, one day she woke up and couldn't stand unaided. She lost feeling on the right side of her body. Her vision came and went. The tumor had spread into her cerebellum and was upgraded to stage three. She fought and tried and did everything she could, but it wasn't enough. In April, she came home from the hospital to begin hospice care.
For the last month she has been surrounded by friends and family. I haven't seen her but sent her emails and prayers nearly every day. She lost the ability to speak in April too, but Scott said he would read her messages and she would smile and motion him to keep going.
Cathy died tonight.
I'm just devastated. Not because someone my age died or because it made me think about mortality or even because she had two very young children who will not even be able to remember their beautiful, kind mother except through stories and pictures.
I'm wrecked because she was my friend. She beat cancer, SHE BEAT IT and she wasn't supposed to die. She was my friend and she wasn't supposed to die.