After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I spent a lot of time at home with my parents, sisters, nephew, and cousins during the Christmas season, then flew to Windsor, England, where I stayed with the Brit’s lovely and large family. The Brit was my three year, on-and-off, best friend-turned-lover adventure, but I digress…

After my plane landed in New York, my bags were unpacked, and I was back in my large, dark apartment alone, the painful truth of being sick set in. In less than three weeks I was scheduled for a complete thyroidectomy. That was when I think I might have been stronger than any other point in my life. Instead of wallowing in a sticky barrel of self pity, I called Gilda’s Club of Manhattan.

I joined a support group January 2011 and everything changed. I was the youngest person in the group by a solid 20 years, but I found myself to be right at home. Everyone I met contributed to my journey, recovery, and life in ways I could never begin to describe.

One woman in particular came to mean so much to me. She was a tall, heavy-set, robust woman named Gigi. She had stage 4 metastasized breast cancer, but worked through the pain with such fervor, that you couldn’t feel badly for her. She was so full of life.

I loved Gigi, and I’d like to believe that she loved me. She was always there for new group members to answer questions about breast cancer, or life in general. Her hugs came from the heart. Her tears were real. Her compassion was unparalleled.

It’s hard to believe that nearly two years have come and gone since Gigi passed away. Today she would have been 49. Happy birthday, old friend.