Remembering Cat Davis, My Dear Scleroderma Friend
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.
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.
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.
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.