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This Totally Sucks

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I want to introduce you to an online friend of mine. It might be better to call her a PHriend, but many of you won’t understand that. PH stands for the pulmonary hypertension that is part of the CTEPH that I have. It’s a cute way our support group calls each other… we’re PH-friends–phriends. It’s cheesy and it’s cute. Anyway, I have this friend–her name is Catherine Augustine. I met her on the PH support group forums.

One day, I’m positing along like normal, and I get this FB email from someone I’ve never met before. It basically says, “You seem really cool…” and then just goes on chatting about stuff. Normal stuff, kid stuff, etc. This email is so full of life and excitement and joy and this upbeat positive attitude that I forget for a moment that this is a complete stranger to me and I just chuckle.

What the heck? I responded back similarly, and thus started a friendship. Sure, it was only online, but between emails and texts, I get to know this amazing person who, like me, suffered from CTEPH. Unlike me, Catherine, or Cat, as many call her, myself included most of the time, had had the PTE surgery in San Diego. Also unlike me, she had a type of sickle cell disease that exacerbated her PH and the PH that exacerbated her sickle cell. She spent weeks and months in the hospital suffering from nosebleeds, internal bleeding and pain. Oh, so much pain.

But the worst pain of all for her was not being home with her beautiful daughter, Ava, who had just turned four. I had sent a gift card to Ava for her birthday.

In the week leading up to that, Cat had overdone things. She had some ascites and fluid retention–we commisserated about that, because it’s so common for us with CTEPH. And then boom–she sends me a message that she’s in the hospital. Well, crap.

And then week after week, she’s still there. All she can think about is getting home to Ava. But even through it all, she’s upbeat, positive, and full of joy for life.

And then one day, I get this message that she’s gone.

She died.

She just… died.

We were all so sure she would go home again, just like the times before. What the hell happened?

Okay, medically, I know now what happened. But that doesn’t seem to make anything make sense for me. She was 31. She had a young daughter who needs her. She has family and friends who love her. She was always so happy, so positive, so wonderfully upbeat.

People like her aren’t supposed to die, especially as young as she was. That’s not supposed to happen.

And on a very selfish note, it brought the reality of this dreadful disease to the forefront to me. She’d had the PTE surgery and survived that, only to be taken down by what? Pneumonia and an infection? Seriously? How is that fair? How is that right?

How scary is that?

I’ve watched when others in the PH support group have passed. It happens. Some of them were elderly, some of them weren’t and had been living with this disease for years, perhaps even a decade or more. It’s always sad. But this time it was so much closer to home. This time, it was real to me. Too real.

I cried for an hour after I found out. Then I spent the whole day talking about her, reading and re-reading her emails to me. I felt guilty for not talking with her more when she was in the hospital. I felt guilty I’d let so much time pass between the last time we talked, telling myself I was trying not to bother her while she was not feeling well. I felt like a horrible friend. I asked Cat to forgive me. Then I forgave myself, because that’s the only thing you CAN do. Then I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again with any other friends. I would learn something from her and be a better person because of her. She has made me a better person, both through her example and through my experience with her.

But that doesn’t bring her back. My heart will always be just a little bit more broken than it was before, for the place where she held in my heart. My love goes out through the universe to her family and her little one. I hope Ava will somehow feel how much love there is in the world for her, how many people are praying for and sending her light and love and hope.

I hope you’ll add your prayers and thoughts and love to mine.

And if you have the change to spare, please consider sending Ava and her family a few dollars to help them say goodbye to Cat properly and maybe leave a little left over for Ava to have to grow up with. It won’t bring her mama back, but maybe it can help pay for something she needs.

Thank you for letting me share my friend with you today. I am still in shock, I think. It still hasn’t fully sunk in what happened. But I needed to talk about her the way I deal with things–I write it out. And so here she is for you all to know too.

Thank you, Cat, for your joy for life. Thank you for your friendship. You are beautiful, your energy is still beautiful, and the universe is a better place for you being in it.

Love,

Michy

 

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2 Responses to “This Totally Sucks”

  1. Buffy says:

    My heart goes out to you and Cat’s other friends. My heart breaks for her family and her little Ava. She was a breath of fresh air in your life just when you needed it most… and I’m so sorry she’s already gone.

    I know this touches close. We’ve talked about how close it touches. But you are, to borrow from Dr. Who, “the impossible girl” — you defy odds like nobody else… and I’ve made up my mind you’re simply going to keep defying them.

    Cat was amazing because despite knowing her odds and despite having been desperately ill, she stayed positive, she always looked forward, and she maintained hope. I believe she is still watching over Ava… her energy continues, as does her love.

    But yes, it still totally sucks. Too soon…

    Live. Love. Laugh. Tell the people you love that you do, indeed, love them. Resolve misunderstandings. Heal wounds. Now. Overcome fear. Push away doubt. Spread your wings and fly. Now. We have now. Reach out and pull all the loves of your life close to your heart, kicking and screaming, if need be. Celebrate the gift of awareness Cat has bestowed, and in doing so, celebrate her life as well as your own.

    Blessings, Love, and Light…

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