Remembering Katherine Moynihan
Katherine was the co-founder of the closed facebook group 'Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer in Canada' and its first administrator.
She was a kind, welcoming, and respectful presence. Selfless. She died in January - here is her obituary. Katherine is greatly missed.
Cindy Barka gave a beautiful tribute to her friend Katherine at her Celebration of Life in May:
Despite the fact that I’m going to read I hope my words are meaningful and poignant and do Katherine justice. Although we hadn’t known each other very long in years, Katherine, not Kate, was my dear friend and I loved the person that she was. There is an undeniable bond that forms when you meet someone who is on the same road that you are on because it is truthfully inexplicable to those who are not staring down that barrel.
From the day I met Katherine her impact on my life and the lives of so many others has been encouraging, inspiring and enlightened.
Katherine and I met under very difficult circumstances. Those circumstances were not MBC. I was being ostracized from the only available support group because of my beliefs and views and despite the fact that we were very different, Katherine was supportive and my champion during that difficult time. I’m sure she was a champion to many because Katherine was outraged by injustice.
I decided to start a new online support group and I knew that she was the person who should lead that group. Katherine, as she always was, graciously accepted the role. She became the first point of contact, outside of the medical community for 100’s of women, many newly diagnosed. I can’t stress enough how scary, daunting, sinister and tumultuous a Metastatic Breast Cancer diagnosis is. Katherine responded to every question, held every hand that needed holding, propped up those that needed support and had honest gentle answers for every woman that came looking for a lie. Am I really going to die? Yes, she’d say, “but you’re alive right now,” and she helped so many learn to live with MBC. Her words were always honest, compassionate and kind. This is a part of her legacy.
There was no drama in the group like many other online groups because Katherine was quick to respond with clear expectations for the group. Sometimes she and I would disagreed about group guidelines or whether we needed to close down a conversational thread because it was escalating, even then our discussions were rational and respectful because that’s the kind of person that Katherine was. She could listen to another person’s beliefs and views. She understood her own position and that gave her the strength and wisdom not just to listen but to hear others. This is a part of her legacy.
Katherine had a way of expressing herself that didn’t cause offence but you knew when you may have crossed a line...it was better to back peddle because you knew she meant business. I would always say, “ Katherine, you are too nice and polite, thank goodness you dealt with that. She would laugh and say, “tell Geoff and Lena that.” So, Geoff and Lena I’m telling you right now, She was too nice and polite.
The words I repeatedly heard in the group in regards to Katherine were words like friend, truthful, honest, compassionate, kind, welcoming, respectful, knowledgeable and engaged. Katherine was all of those things while dealing with her own cancer journey, through the fatigue, the treatments, the appointments, the pain, the worry, the concerns for her own husband and daughter...Just imagine her strength. Katherine wanted to make sure that any woman, any person, diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer had access to peer support and she was always available to all of us. Many, easily called her friend, even though they had never met her in person. These women and this group are her legacy.
Metastatic breast cancer is severely underrepresented in Pink Campaigns, in cancer care, drug availability, research funding and believe it or not most cancer organizations do not offer late stage cancer support...so, when Katherine’s voice was needed she made her way to Queen’s Park to lend support, meet with MPPs, glad hand her way around a room full of politicians and pharmaceutical reps and make sure they heard her story so that there was a face when they voted on whether or not take home cancer therapies should be readily available and affordable to all cancer patients, especially those diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer.
And, when the opportunity arose, despite her pain and fatigue she joined in the Run for the Cure to bring awareness to metastatic breast cancer and the need for pink money to be designated towards metastatic research. This too is a part of her legacy.
Katherine and I shared many difficult conversations but I also knew of her fondness for gelato, biscotti and a good book. I knew of her faith, her interest in Ireland and all her family over there. I think all her friends and cousins are also named Kate? We discussed the music that she liked and I listened when she expressed her love for her husband and child and between all that we could laugh at the minutia of life and the absurdity of a new progression or side effect and the inexplicable wonder of it all. We would often say to each other, this IS life. One woman in our group said I want to leave this world the same way Katherine did, humble, full of grace and gratitude. This is a part of Katherine’s legacy too.
Life is about making the most of the time you have and knowing that the time you have is precarious and precious. I’m glad that I got to be a small part of Katherine’s life and I had a ring side seat to see the impact and legacy that she left behind because Katherine, not Kate, was my dear friend.