Remembering Cat Davis, My Dear Scleroderma Friend

Amy Gietzen avatar

by Amy Gietzen |

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Have you ever met someone and felt like the stars were aligned and everything was right in the universe? That’s what it was like to meet my friend Cat Davis.

In 2016, I was in Washington, D.C., for Capitol Hill Day, an advocacy event sponsored by the National Scleroderma Foundation. I arrived late to the welcome dinner. About 50 people already were there, most of them patients living with scleroderma. As I entered, the room fell silent and all eyes landed on me.

I felt immediately uncomfortable and embarrassed. As my eyes darted around the room, I noticed a girl who had short, hot pink hair clipped to the side and a goofy grin, and who was drinking a can of Pepsi. I gravitated toward her.

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When I first met Cat, I was completely overwhelmed. She was loud, bubbly, energetic, and sassy, and had a dark and dry sense of humor. This remarkable young woman living with scleroderma was beautiful, witty, and savvy.

The moment Cat and I met, we became fast friends. We just clicked in every way, including our shared passion for advocacy and helping young patients navigate life with scleroderma.

Scleroderma News | Amy Gietzen and Cat Davis smile together outside the U.S. Capitol in 2016 during a scleroderma advocacy event.

From left, columnist Amy Gietzen and her late friend Cat Davis pose for a selfie outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in 2016. Cat died from complications of scleroderma on May 25, 2021.  (Courtesy of Amy Gietzen)

In 2010, Cat was diagnosed at age 22 with rapidly advancing diffuse systemic scleroderma. Like me, she was diagnosed young, but unlike me, her disease progressed very quickly. By the time we met, she had already undergone two stem cell transplants and several procedures to save her life.

What I admired most about Cat was her willingness to bear it all. She had a large following on social media and was practically a celebrity in her hometown of Spokane, Washington. She hosted fundraisers and did TV interviews to share her struggles and explain how difficult her life had become with scleroderma.

Cat was a powerhouse of awareness and innovative ideas. She started her own GoFundMe page called “Cure for Cat” and raised enough funds to cover an enormous amount of medical debt. She even got local organizations to sponsor her adult wish of traveling to Hawaii with her mom for some R & R.

Cat’s energy was magnetic, and people just flocked to her. Her presence would light up a room.

As scleroderma patients, we both were aware that our lives were not our own and that time was not on our side. We knew scleroderma would eventually win the fight, but for Cat, that day came sooner than we anticipated.

Cat battles a scleroderma flare in the hospital in early 2021. (Courtesy of Sally Davis)

I had known for a few months that she wasn’t doing well. Cat wasn’t one to dwell on her disease progression. She loved life and fought hard to make memories and live in the moment. Yet she was also brutally honest about her health journey.

Cat and I had several long conversations about how she was going into palliative care and wanted me to visit her. However, because it was early 2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic was still raging, traveling from my home in New York across the country to see my dear friend wasn’t in the cards.

It came in the middle of the night, that gut feeling that something wasn’t right. Cat always texted me at weird hours because of the three-hour time difference. We would always crack up at the phone tag we played trying to connect. The text I got that night read: “I love you my friend and I hate scleroderma.” Three days later, I found out that my dear, sweet scleroderma sister had passed away.

Cat was only 33 years old when she died on May 25, 2021.

She lived a life most people would never be able to handle. No one wants to be told they have an incurable illness at age 22. But she walked through life with strength, love, and hope. She lived life to the fullest and never let scleroderma swallow her happiness or determination to succeed.

I miss my friend. Sometimes the weight of it is devastating. I believe she is in a better place where she’s free of pain. I hold on to that thought to make me feel less lonely and sad that she isn’t here.

I keep her words in my heart: “Life happens, it is how we respond that matters most. As people, we must recognize that the choice is ours — the choice to love both our good and bad times, for we never know what the next minute holds.”

This column is dedicated to my scleroderma sister in crime, my forever friend, Cat Davis.


Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.

Comments

Tim Harley avatar

Tim Harley

Oh my, my heart is breaking for the loss of your dear friend. I whisper prayers of solace and comfort for you. I lost my brother when he was only 38 to heart disease and I truly understand your pain. He, like your friend Cat, was such an amazing, charismatic person; one whom everyone admired and desired to be around.

For me, that was many years ago. But today, as I face my own uncertain future, I find myself wishing deeply that he was still here, that I could talk with him now and laugh with him and face life's struggles as we did then.

Your words are a beautiful tribute to the friendship you had with Cat and to the beautiful person she must truly have been. Again, prayers offered. I wish you peace, this day.

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Amy Gietzen avatar

Amy Gietzen

Thank you, your words touched my heart! I am sorry you lost your brother. It sounds like you two had an amazing relationship. I will keep you in my prayers!

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Stephani Garrett avatar

Stephani Garrett

Beautiful article and a lesson all could learn from. I lost my Mom in 2019 due to complications of Scleroderma. She would go to her appointments and be so joyful, making her nurses and caregiver happy and laughing. She did the same in the hospital before she passed. Bless you, and I pray a cure is found.

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Amy Gietzen avatar

Amy Gietzen

Thank you Stephanie for your kind words. I am truly sorry for the loss of your mom. She sounds like an amazing lady.

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Ellen Galione avatar

Ellen Galione

Amy

I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear friend Cat.
Rest peacefully Cat

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Amy Gietzen avatar

Amy Gietzen

Thank you so much!

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Sy Fuller avatar

Sy Fuller

I miss Cat too. I felt so honored when she asked if she could visit me while she was in California. I had just gotten my double lungs transplant and she was going for her second stem cell transplant at a hospital near my residence at the time. She was in pain, but she never showed it. I'll miss her beautiful smile.

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Amy Gietzen avatar

Amy Gietzen

Sy, thank you for your thoughtfulness and I know you miss her just as much as I do!

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Melisa Brown avatar

Melisa Brown

I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. She looks like a real sweet person.

I feel your pain. My support group leader was my rock when I was diagnosed in 2015. She had systemic also and you could tell she was in constant pain but she always stayed positive and kept our group in good spirits, even on the real difficult days. We lost her in October of 2019. I still can't believe it has been that long.

This is a horrible disease and it has no mercy or forgiveness. I feel lucky most days as my disease has not gone systemic and I truly hope it does not. I pray that I stay where I am now, or if possible, even reduce the symptoms. One can always hope and dream.

Stay strong Amy. Big hugs girl.

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Amy Gietzen avatar

Amy Gietzen

Thank you so much, Melissa! I appreciate your kind words and sharing your feelings with me. I know this disease can be such a downer- and I am so sorry for the loss of your "rock". Loss can be a huge part of our medical journey and sometimes that is overwhelming

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Matt avatar

Matt

Hi Amy, I was Cat's oldest brother. Thank you for honoring her memory so wonderfully. I miss her too. She placed her hope in Jesus. We can be absolutely certain she has found joy.

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Amy Gietzen avatar

Amy Gietzen

Hi Matt, I appreciate you taking the time to read this! She was such an amazing person and there is definitely a hole left where her place was. I know it is probably a lot harder for you as her brother! I am honored that you would read my article about her so thank you so much! I would definietly love to meet all of you guys one day!

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Rita A. Coleman avatar

Rita A. Coleman

So very sorry for your loss Amy, Cat seemed to be full life despite her diagnosis of Scleroderma. I was diagnosed 9 years ago she had the absolute right attitude!! Enjoy life as much as possible and give it all to Jesus!! He is my sweet peace through everything!! I love this news letter, take care of yourself!💕

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Amy Gietzen avatar

Amy Gietzen

Thank you Rita your words truly touched me.

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