A Letter to My Friend

Dear Katie,

Six months ago you sent me an email. You had just left a comment on my first post about being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. You had also just been diagnosed, and you were scared. You were so scared you asked me to delete your comment because you didn’t want anyone to know.

Thus began our friendship. We traded stories of our surgeries, gave each other advice on how to get through chemo, and compared notes on our lives. You told me about your young daughter and your brother, and we promised each other we would run a race together when this was all over.

You made me promise, over and over, to NEVER GIVE UP! You always wrote it like that. You also put actions in your emails with an asterisk. *nods nods* was your favorite. God, you were funny. I could always hear your Irish lilt in my head, even though I’d never heard your voice.

On Sep 29 you told me that things weren’t going well. Your cancer wasn’t responding to chemo. You didn’t want to tell me the news, thinking it would affect my own recovery. I wrote emails to you periodically after that, knowing you would write back when you were stronger.

Tonight I found out you didn’t make it. You went into the hospital two days after your last email and passed away a couple of weeks after that.

I am devastated. Hearing the news was like a punch to the gut.

We never met in person. I don’t even know what you looked like. We were friends. You were my hero.

Your last post was titled “This Isn’t Goodbye . . .” I think you knew it probably was.

You touched other lives just through your comments here on my blog. People asked about you when you disappeared. I understood why you stopped writing and needed a break. I did so as well. After a certain point in chemo, when it got really tough, I needed to save all my energy for the fight. My brain was all jumbled up and I couldn’t string a sentence together, let alone make my fingers work on the keyboard. I’m sure it was the same for you.

You fought hard, Katie. You never gave up and you never lost hope.

You went so quickly.

Now that I know you’re gone, I feel like the only survivor of a plane crash. We are a small club of women. This cancer doesn’t leave many behind. It is selfish and claims most of us for itself.

I never felt anger towards our cancer before now. It was just something that happens to some women. Now that it has taken you, it’s become personal. Now I’m angry. This cancer can mess with me, but how dare it take someone as good and kind and honest as you were? And how dare it should take away the mother of a fourteen year old girl?

I bought a sticker for my car while I was still doing chemo. It’s a teal ribbon and says “I won.” I’ve saved it all these months until I got the official news from the doctor that I was cancer free. I’ve debated actually putting it on my car, thinking it might seem arrogant or disrespectful to the women who didn’t make it. You fought harder than anyone I know to beat this cancer. In your last email you told me you hadn’t given up hope. You told me once again, as you had so often before, to NEVER GIVE UP.

That sticker is going on my car today. I know you would want to see it there. I hope it makes you smile when you see it from wherever you are.

I didn’t give up, Katie. My fight was nothing compared to yours, but I never gave in. I was only lucky that we caught it so early. Most are not so lucky. It doesn’t make sense to me that someone can fight as hard as you and others have done and not win. I will never understand that. My victory is a hollow one without you here. It’s like breaking the tape at the finish line and realizing you’re the only one who made it to the end.

Rest in peace, Irish Katie. Your fight is over, and we’ll miss you here on Earth, but you’ll always be in our hearts.

Your friend forever,

Angela

http://irishkatie.wordpress.com/

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51 comments

  1. Beverly

    Your letter to Katie is a beautiful, lovely tribute. Even though she was scared, she was inspirational to those who witnessed her fight. A message not lost on me to soldier on. I wish her and her family peace.
    I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I read the comment on her blog yesterday. And your letter brought me to tears. Ovarian cancer is a nasty, insidious disease that has robbed us of too many. I’d also like to think that Katie read your emails and knew that she was not alone in this fight.

    • Mind Margins

      She was only scared because of how it could impact her daughter. She was always brave and strong, and she helped me tremendously. I will miss her emails and her words of encouragement.

  2. AndrewGills

    Beautiful letter. Your friend would want you to put the sticker on your car. It will give others who are fighting hope. Maybe someone will be on their way to chemo and will be feeling low. But they might notice your sticker and realize some people do win the fight and that might help them believe they can too. And it might cause someone who has a lump or who hasn’t had a pap smear in years to get it checked by a doctor, and that might cause them to be lucky to find their C early.

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  3. unsportywomencanrun

    so so sad to hear about Irish Katie (understatement) x but so glad to hear about you, you have been in my thoughts so often over the last few months x We need to have a Katie Run in her memory.

    • Mind Margins

      Another friend of hers and I were just talking today about having some type of memorial for her. Her friend said they had talked about riding bikes together when it was all over. An Irish Katie run would be amazing, even if we all just picked a day to run or ride bikes in her honor. She would have liked that.

      • sensuousamberville

        Katie sent me an email in Sept.. saying you had commented that in her blog she sounded like she was struggling. “Anyway, she asked how I was doing. She said my blog sounded less than … she said….she said she sensed I was struggling. I am not sure what to tell her. I do not want to discourage her.”

        I told her to be honest, that you could fight together, draw upon each other, that she would not draw you down, but that you may lift her a bit.

        she said
        “Nods … I took your advice. I let Angela know my status. And we will fight together….me … Angela …. and you by my side. I feel that. I am feeling really good tonight Amber. *smiles* … tonight we eat MEAT again lol”

        Thank you for this letter. It was very grand. Katie would smile.

        Put that sticker on your car, and each time you see it you will remember her. She will smile too knowing what that sticker means.

      • Mind Margins

        Amber, Katie mentioned you often, and she told me in her last email that you had told her to be honest and tell me she wasn’t doing well. I thank you for that. Katie was so strong, and not once in all these months of silence did it ever occur to me that she hadn’t made it. Dying was never an option. She helped me so much. I will miss her dearly. Thank you so much for letting us know the sad news. And the sticker is on the car!

      • sensuousamberville

        That email was on the 29th, I received two more from her the next day, the last she was complaining how bad her tummy hurt. Rachel said she went into the hospital the next day. I have always hoped, but in my heart knew. I am happy that sticker is on your car for two reasons, one Katie would smile, but what it means too, that you kicked it. Yay you 🙂 that would make Katie smile also.

      • Mind Margins

        I think it would make her smile, especially if she saw that when I put it on the car you could hardly see it because it was clear! I have a new one with a white background on order so no one will be able to miss it.

      • unsportywomencanrun

        Angela, it’s just so good to see you back. I dedicated one 1km of my run up the mountain to you hoping that you are ok. I would love to participate in the Irish Katie Run in her memory but also to raise awareness and to donate some money to help find a cure x

      • Mind Margins

        I’m so honored that you ran 1km for me. It’s been an emotional day. I would like to be running again before our Irish Katie Run, so I’ll keep you posted.

  4. therunningtherapist

    Beautiful letter and so great to hear from you. I’ve been thinking a lot about you and even checking your blog periodically to just get an idea of how you were doing. I’m glad you put that sticker on your car. Wear it proudly and know that Katie and all of us seeing it are proud of you! You pick a day and I will make it my long run day for Katie.

    • Mind Margins

      Thanks so much. I feel bad now about not posting something sooner. I really did struggle with chemo, and putting thoughts together and trying to type were just too much. I should have at least let everyone know that I was still alive and fighting!

      • therunningtherapist

        I knew you were still there (especially when you liked my posts!) Don’t feel bad about not posting more just know that there were and are a bunch of people you have never met thinking about you and wishing you well! 🙂

      • Mind Margins

        Honestly, there were many days when I just didn’t have the strength to even pick up my iPad to read blogs. I might not have Liked every post or commented much, but I was always there, lurking in the shadows, sometimes weeks or months after you wrote something. Knowing you were all there cheering me on and pulling for me is what kept me strong. I will never be able to thank everyone for that.

  5. aFrankAngle

    Your positive role in this continues to impress me … but this tribute to Katie may be the best you’ve written since your journey began.

  6. oopsjohn

    So poignant! While the rest of us didn’t get to share in Katie’s story, until now, I must also say I have been quite anxious to hear news of you. I am not alone as I am sure you have hundreds of followers who are ecstatic to learn you are cancer-free. It is your turn now, to be an inspiration. Are you back to running marathons yet? 🙂

    • Mind Margins

      I had no idea so many people were concerned about me, as goofy as that sounds. I’m honored to be a part of such a wonderful community of writers.

      I am nowhere near ready for a marathon anytime soon. I walk most days, up to 4 miles, but I can’t run longer than 2-3 minutes at a time. Chemo really took a lot out of me, and coming back is harder than I thought it would be. There’s no hurry. I’m just happy to be out there!

  7. Michelle

    Oh Angela, I’m so sorry. When I saw a notice for your blog, I was glad to see you back, but I’m so sad to hear about your friend. I wish there was something I could do.

    • Mind Margins

      Just stay alive, Michelle. I’m tired of losing friends. Go to her blog and read what she wrote. You two would have been great friends. She was smart and funny and very honest–just like you.

      • Michelle

        I thought about doing that but I don’t know. I feel like a heel, but I’m just not sure I can handle it. The older I get, the harder these things become. Without even knowing her, I’m sad to the point of tears. Some of that is for you, of course, and some for her family. And I guess the rest is just because it really, really sucks.

      • Mind Margins

        I understand. I went back and read her posts but I couldn’t make it through the emails she sent me. One day I will, but not now.

  8. pwhent

    Angela, this is such a beatiful heartfelt letter. Your pain at losing someone who had fought with you and to whom you had grown close is tangible. I am so sorry for Katie and her family and we will keep her in our prayers. Of course you must put the sticker in your car. You deserve it after what you have been through and I am sure Katie would want you to.
    I have thought about you often over the last few months since your last blog post – wondering how you were doing. Hoping and waiting for the next update. You are one of the few people whose blogs I have on “instant alert”!. But somehow I didn’t doubt that I would hear you again. We should all mourn Katie’s passing after such a brave fight. But I also want to celebrate your news. I am so thrilled that you are still out there.

    • Mind Margins

      I’m honored about the “instant alert” status, Peter. I am indeed alive and kicking and trying to build my strength and endurance back up to running again. It is much tougher than I thought it would be, but I realize how fortunate I am just to be out there again. Losing Katie is a wake up call to appreciate every moment I’ve been given.

  9. kardarc

    Thank you for sharin g R.M. ! This made me think about how there’s something more personally offefensive about watching someone else be hurt than actually being hurt yourself. Someone or something can hurt you and it is taken in stride, but to see that same thing or person hurt someone else is somehow more painful. As painful as it can be, our empathy makes us human.

    • Mind Margins

      K, very much so. I felt such anger when I first heard the news, something I had felt very little of these past six months. I suppose it’s what connects us to the animal world, yet makes us so very human–the desire to protect those we love. Even though we were separated by a thousand physical miles, our shared experience and concern for each other created a brief but intense bond that I’ll never forget.

  10. ramblingsfromamum

    Angela, reading your letter brought tears, as I sit in my home in Australia on Christmas Day. A beautiful tribute to a lady who was so loved by so many. As everyone has mentioned , place the sticker with pride,it is not disrespectful to others and you know Katie would be nodding for you to do so and as Peter said, though we mourn for our Irish Lass, we are also grateful that you are still with us. We will remember her, alongside all of those who were grasped by this insidious disease…fight on all of you ~ strength and love. xx

  11. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    This is beautiful. I think her family would weep to read this, as it’s so human and connected. God bless her, in peace.

  12. darkravengirl14

    i don’t know how many times i have read this now but a lot. mom would have wanted you to put the sticker on

    • Mind Margins

      And I will, Rachel! I know you’re right. I will keep replacing that sticker on every car I own until the day I die. I’m so happy to hear from you. Your mom was an amazing woman. I thought about her–and you–a lot today. I’m going to write you a long email tomorrow.

  13. monica

    so sorry for your loss and the loss of the other’s who loved. this tribute brought tears to my eyes. hope you were able to find the joy this season and hope that you are continuing your fight and feeling better. I’ve missed your voice!

  14. writingsbykim

    This post was an inspiration to me. Five years ago my uncle died after a five year battle with cancer. He fought long and hard until he was out of strength, and even then he fought. I am a Christian and even more I call myself a disciple, when which I am determined to learn from and become like Jesus. I trusted throughout my uncles entire battle that God would heal him, but in the end after five years fighting which included his leg being amputated in his third year, he lost. I believe he is in heaven. The thing is, he had two daughters aged 13 and 10 who had lost their father. I didn’t understand and in many ways, I still don’t. For the past five years i have struggled with trust in God’s healing power. Every person I have known to have cancer, has passed. Hard to hope after that. I am so proud of you that you never gave up. I know that God healed you. Whether you believe it or not is another story. I hope you because you have blessed with more time. Like you said many lose to cancer. Their life ends at a young age. The fact that God protected your life and you won the battle against cancer, shows that God still has plans for you. I hope that if you believe and have trust in God that you will strive to grow in your relationship and spend the rest of your life praising his name. He has things for you to do. The fact that he saved your life just goes to show that. My uncle lived a good life. He served God and was an amazing father for the time he was here. At his funeral, the church was packed with people who knew his strong relationship with God. He was ready to go. As for his daughters. God has taken care of them. Their mom remarried a year and a half later and they were provided once again with a father. God never lets us down. God Bless and I hope that if you already believe that this message will simply encourage you. If not, I hope that you will consider his excistence. If anything, I believe your being alive proves not only his excistence, but his love and power.
    -Kim

    • Mind Margins

      Thank you for your kind words, Kim. I am more of an agnostic than anything else, but if there is a God, and he has spared my life, then I gladly accept the responsibility He has given me and that my work is not yet done. I do feel that, that I have lots more to accomplish, even if it is only to show other women that it is possible to survive ovarian cancer. I am so sorry for the loss of your uncle and all the people you’ve lost to cancer.

  15. When in New Places

    Angela, It’s been a while since I’ve visited here, but I’ve been thinking of you lots lately and was so happy to stop in and see how well you’re doing.
    I’m sorry for your loss ~ I read her last post just now and it seems to have a sort of cryptically beautiful meaning to it. This was a really lovely and touching letter to read – Thank you for sharing it.
    Keep up the good fight, Angela!
    ~Andrea<3

    • Mind Margins

      Thanks so much, Andrea. The news of Katie not making it was terribly shocking. I never, ever thought it would take her down. I suspect she knew she didn’t have much time left when she wrote her last post, though I know she fought to the end.

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