Rannie Yoo died at home late on Sunday afternoon in San Francisco. On the message boards she referred to herself as CatsM. It stood for “cats meow.” She was 33 years old.
I first came across her posts on an online forum dedicated to patients with tumors of the parotid gland. Like many I was drawn to the love and joy and humor that was so present in her voice. I would later learn that the tone and words and wisdom that I found so compelling were as well present in her person.
She and I shared the same surgeon. I had been diagnosed with a recurrent pleomorphic adenoma at about the same time that the doctors had discovered her stage IV malignancy.
When she received the diagnosis from our surgeon, she asked him what the worst outcome was. He was a little bewildered. Well you could die, he said.
She received those words and she did more than soldier on. She proceeded to live her life with a beguiling grace. She wasn’t scared of surgery, she said. It was her job to just go to sleep and wake up. It was the surgeon’s job to get rid of this thing. And so she went even as her cancer threw everything it could at her.
After my surgery I looked her up when I returned to San Francisco for my radiation treatment. We met a few times. Although by that time her cancer had spread, she was publicly upbeat and happy. Like others in her predicament, her illness had made her feel strangely alive, perhaps more so than she had ever been. She once said that she was grateful for what was happening to her, that it was helping her become who she was. She could see clearly how much her fiancée David loved her, and how devoted he was. She was grateful to him and to her sister and to her vast network of friends and coworkers. And she was deeply sympathetic to others facing similar or even lesser conditions.
At one point I had confessed to her that I was primarily a lurker on the parotid forum – that although I found the information useful, I wasn’t necessarily seeking a community of illness. There’s a lot of love on that site, she gently cautioned. They are all really good people.
She relied on them, on us, greatly for both solace and as comrades in arms. I believe we also helped her to feel of service and to provide an arena for her to express the wonderful person that she was and and will always continue to be.
Rannie and David married five nights before she died. It was a forestalled wish that she had long been harboring. I would like to think that it was one of many wishes granted her.
With her hair gone she once described herself as looking like a shaolin monk. I will always remember her as beautiful.