I lost a very close friend, Kasi Gajtkowski, last week after her Stage 2 BC came back less than 2 years later as Stage 4 incurable, and then, in what seemed like a blink...she was gone. I'm still in shock. She was my rock, my tether to hope, as she was going through everything I was, just ahead of me. She gave me tips and advice on what was coming, how good or bad it was, and how long it would be after chemo before my hair and eyelashes would grow back, as well as the best way to put on fake eyelashes, draw on eyebrows, and taking bets on what color and texture our hair would be when it finally DID grow back.
We never met in person, as she lived in Maine, and I, in Michigan, but thanks to the website: ihadcancer.com, where I met her, and innumerable email, texts and cell phone calls, we were able to keep in touch, to keep each other going, she for me, more than me for her. I will miss hearing her voice, reading her replies to my pages-long emails written in the middle of the night, and just in general, for the wonderful, inspiring woman that she was.
This makes three people, who I've known closely since my diagnosis, to lose their battle with cancer in the last year and a half. She is the youngest, at 33, and the one I was closest to, so it has hit me hardest. I was lucky enough to be able to send her a text while she was in the hospital last week, which her husband read to her (and made her laugh, to my delight), and she was able to have him send one back from her. So even though I didn't get to hear her beautiful voice and laugh one last time, I was able to let her know how special she was to me and how truly blessed I was to know her.
Losing someone who was so close in diagnosis, so close in age (ok - so she was 9 years younger), so quickly after finishing treatment, brings up all the old fears that I had during those 'dark nights of the soul'. These were usually the nights that I was up, emailing my friend, who would wake up the next day inundated with a slew of emails from me, and laugh at my sheer volume of work that I managed to produce in one short night.
As I said, I began this post as a follow-up to my original "Fear" post, but right now is not the time for that. I'd rather just use this post to honor the friend, the woman, her family and friends who lost a shining soul last week. We love you Kasi. You will forever be in my heart, and in a piece of my soul. Until we meet again....
As her Obit was just posted, I will share it here, it says so much about the wonderful woman she was.
WINDHAM -- Kasi Marie (Bean) Gajtkowski, 33, of Windham, passed away peacefully on Thursday, Aug. 15, with her signature grace and dignity. Her loving husband Cliff, parents Merrill and Lesa, brother Derek and faithful and loving puppies Rosco and Pebbles were at her side. She was surrounded as well by several family members and friends.
Kasi was born in Waterville on Sept. 26, 1979 to Merrill and Lesa Bean. She attended Oakland schools and graduated from Messalonskee High School in 1997. In 2001, she graduated magna cum laude from the University of Southern Maine in Gorham with a bachelor of arts degree in communications. Following graduation, she worked for several companies in the Portland area, making many long-lasting friendships. In 2011, she took a job as an SEO specialist for PowerPay in Portland, work she truly enjoyed.
On Nov. 7, 2009, Kasi married her one true love and soul mate, Cliff Gajtkowski, in a beautiful ceremony on the beach on the island of St. Lucia. They settled in Windham with their two dogs.
Kasi was predeceased by her paternal grandparents, Bernard and Vivian Bean; and maternal grandfather Leslie Stevens. She is survived by her husband, Cliff; parents Merrill and Lesa; brother Derek; maternal grandmother Eileen Stevens; several aunts, uncles and cousins; her sister-in-law and three brothers-in-law and families; dogs Rosco and Pebbles; several close friends and best friend Lesley Mosher.
A special thanks goes to the members of Kasi's Krusaders for their dedicated Facebook page, all the kind words and the walk to support her. It had a profound effect on raising her spirits to read the daily posts and to know that so many were walking in her honor. Kasi had asked that any money collected from the walk be donated to the Cancer Community Center in South Portland.
A quote from Winston Churchill, chosen by Kasi, became the motto for the Krusaders. To quote: "If you're going through hell, keep going." In these past two years in her fight against breast cancer, Kasi did just that, as well as touching so many lives in such an inspirational way. It is evident from the outpouring of love she received from literally hundreds of friends, both locally and from around the country, some of whom she had never met, that she truly was an uplifting and endlessly caring person. For those who would like to see more of her inspiring personality and the work she enjoyed, it is recommended to visit her web page/blog that she designed and built to provide content to help others going through similarly tough situations, as well as insights into her own life and a means by which to contact her for support. The web address is www.purpleismycolor.com.
A private family service will be held. A celebration of her life will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, at T&B's Outback Tavern in Waterville. Kasi, we love you SO MUCH!
Published in Morning Sentinel on August 20, 2013
"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along'. You must do the thing you thing you cannot do."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt --