My best friend, Kate, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in August. Every time I told someone, they gave me a face — lips pursed together, a sigh of ‘oh’ and a sympathetic tilt of the head.
I always got so mad when I saw those faces. They didn’t know my friend. Yes, she has a tough cancer to beat but she will prove you wrong, I thought.
Kate raised two outstanding boys on her own. As a reporter, she interviewed hardened criminals and managed to charm even the meanest of the lot.
Cancer? Please! She’s got this!
I throughly convinced myself she was going to make it. She just was. Period. End of story. Any other conclusion was just unacceptable. I’m a cancer survivor too, so she would just be joining me in the club.
Kate fought so hard but when the disease got such a big head start, catching up was impossible.
Several weeks ago, we got word that her chemotherapy had been stopped and the doctors deemed her terminal.
Even this news didn’t shake me. Doctors can be wrong. She is going to make it. I can’t even begin to describe how deep my denial was rooted. We are talking about a woman who slept with her phone by her bed when I was nine months pregnant so if I needed a ride she would know. A person who offered invaluable advice at times when I needed it the most.
Whenever I saw Kate, I always felt like even if the day was bad, I, at least, had one person on my side.
A mutual friend got an e-mail from Kate’s family saying how she had had a rough night and they thought she was going to pass. She didn’t but it would not be long.
I felt like I had been thrown into an icy lake. She really wasn’t going to make it.
The friend told me a line she had heard during a family illness. Her family member was talking to God and said, “If you aren’t going to heal her, take her.”
So I made the hard decision to pray for her to go. I wanted her to be in a better place where she wasn’t in distress.
Not wanting to disturb her or her family, I started to carry the phone around everywhere murmuring, “Please call, but don’t call.” I wanted my friend out of misery but I didn’t want the final call to come.
One night, a couple days later, my phone rang. My heart thudded into my stomach as I answered. Turns out, it was someone wanting to see if I had heard anything. I exhaled but shook for probably 10 minutes after the phone call.
Several days passed but she continued to get worse. On Saturday evening, I was told her family thought she was not going to make it through the night.
I took my phone to bed with me and placed it by a picture of me and Kate on my wedding day nearly four years ago. I tossed and turned constantly. Sleep never really came.
But, the final call did — around 8:30 a.m. Sunday. She was gone.
Her strength and courage have inspired me in ways I will remember for the rest of my life.
Kate always brought so much sunlight and joy wherever she went. She made my world brighter but today the sun isn’t shining as hard.
— Gina Gallucci-White writes from Frederick, Md.