The end came way too fast.
I had talked with my friend LuAnn briefly on the phone one afternoon about the usual things: kids, work, husbands, and a week later, I received a phone call from her sister. “Chrys, Lu’s in the hospital and I don’t think she’ll be coming out.” My mind tried to comprehend what she was saying, but all I could muster was, “No, no, no—that’s just not possible.”
I met LuAnn Canipe in April of 1994 when I took the job of evening anchor at WTOL TV in Toledo. She also worked as a news anchor and reporter at the station, covering the crime beat. Pretty and athletic, Lu was also one of the toughest, most brilliant people I knew; an incredible reporter and storyteller. She also had a huge heart, working to right social wrongs and sharing her time and money with others.
We worked together, we became roommates, and we became the best of friends. Our friendship continued when she moved to Washington DC. LuAnn was in my wedding, we were together when babies were born, traveled together for girls’ weekends and supported each other through good times and bad. In 22 years of friendship, we laughed together, cried together and counseled each other.
When she called me in early 2014 to tell me she’d been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, she was scared. Not so much scared of the breast cancer; she was scared to tell me because she didn’t want me to be upset. Serving as the honorary chairperson for the NW Ohio Komen Race for the Cure since 1995, she knew I had lost friends to breast cancer and didn’t want me to worry about her. She told me the treatment plan she and her husband had decided on, I gave her a couple of suggestions on where to look for support, and we all took a pragmatic approach to beating the cancer.
I went to DC on a few occasions to visit, taking her to chemotherapy treatments where we would talk and laugh and solve the world’s problems. During her cancer treatments, LuAnn inspired me with her faith, grace and energy. She continued to work through her illness in a demanding job as a Presidential appointee in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and was loving, fun and attentive to her husband Mike and her son Chet who just turned 9.
LuAnn’s hair had just grown back, and life was just getting back to normal when doctors discovered the cancer had come back in her brain. After surgery to remove a tumor and months of radiation, LuAnn was doing pretty well, but went to the doctor with flu-like symptoms in March of this year and discovered the cancer had spread all over her body. That’s when I got the phone call from her sister. I rushed to DC to spend a few days with Lu in the hospital and felt like I was in a bad dream talking with her family about end-of-life care and where LuAnn would be most comfortable. Less than a week later, on Good Friday of this year, LuAnn passed away peacefully in a beautiful hospice center in Virginia.
After 22 years of giggles and tears, late-night snacks and chats, sharing mommy tips and shopping trips, the end seemed to come with some type of warp speed that left me reeling. After the grief subsided, I started asking myself, “What can I do in my life to honor the memory of my friend?” One answer was simple: Keep working to find a cure for breast cancer. The best way I know to do that is to continue working with Northwest Ohio Komen for the Cure and participating in the upcoming Race for the Cure events in Findlay and Toledo on September 24 and 25.
LuAnn was a runner and participated in the Race for the Cure several times. For the past two years, I’ve proudly worn a sign with her name on my back, “In Celebration of LuAnn.” This year, the sign will change to, “In Memory of LuAnn.” After 22 years of friendship, the memories will be sweet and plentiful; but with only six months since her death, I imagine the grief will be plentiful on race day too. I hope to use that feeling of loss to fuel my passion to find a cure, and I’m asking you to join in this fight.
Whether you’ve lost someone you love to breast cancer, or you’ve been inspired by a breast cancer survivor in your life, you can celebrate and remember them by participating in this year’s NW Ohio Komen Race for the Cure. Click here to run, walk, or sleep-in for the cure and we’ll share this journey together, step-by-step, for all the people we love.
Do you know someone with cancer? Take this quiz to learn more about being a “fighting friend”.
For 20 years, Chrys Peterson was the face of WTOL news, anchoring the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts. She is now a correspondent for ProMedica HealthConnect and spokeswoman for Friends for Life, a monthly newsletter for women that offers health and wellness advice with a focus on cancer prevention.