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"Tracy died today."

The message arrived in my inbox late Sunday.

"Please honor her with your writing ... She was the epitome of fighting cancer."

I met Tracy Lingwall Harnly just once.

She and her friend Tracy Poppe met me at the end of a rainy workday in October 2009, a few weeks before the Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk at Holmes Lake.

"Two 'best breast cancer buddies,'" was the headline above the column I wrote about the two 35-year-olds with breast cancer who met at Seward High in the '80s -- fun-loving blondes with big hair.

We sat at a corner table at Starbucks.

"I used to be blonder," said Tracy Lunney -- now Poppe.

"Didn't we all," said Tracy Lingwall Harnly, running late in an oversized hoodie and jeans.

She's the sickest Tracy.

Her cancer had spread to her liver by the time she was diagnosed more than four years ago ...

It didn't look good for Tracy then, but you couldn't tell by her smile -- and her amazing attitude.

She laughed and told boob jokes -- how one day her youngest son took her prosthetic right breast outside to show the neighbor boy.

"I'm waiting for the principal to call and say, 'I have your breast, come pick it up.'"

She was still joking on her blog last week.

She still had the same amazing attitude.

Almost every post, even the times she wrote about being wheelchair-bound, about stopping treatment, about moving to hospice, ended with thanks.

2.03.2011: Thankful for?! Rocky Road ice cream ... Fun socks. Warm hats. The best care giving family in the world. Hope and Love.

2.11.2011: What I am thankful for: All the little moments, the kisses I get when the boys get home from school, and Sweet Tarts before bed.

2.17.2011: What I am thankful for: Everything anybody has ever done for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOD BLESS!!

That was the way her friend was, Tracy Poppe said Monday.

"She saw the good in every situation and she saw the potential in every situation."

After that column ran in 2009, the sickest Tracy made some headway with her treatment. This October, the two Tracys even walked in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk again, and Tracy LH jogged part of the route of the Susan G. Komen walk a month earlier.

But by January, the chemo had stopped working and tumors on her spine left her unable to walk.

"She fought emotionally and physically and she fought with such a positive attitude; that's what kept her so strong."

Tracy Poppe is in remission. She has been since I talked to the two Tracys in 2009. She found her cancer early and she thanks Tracy LH for that. When she discovered the lump in 2008, she knew Tracy's story -- how her doctor told her the lump was probably related to breastfeeding and how she'd waited two years before getting it checked again.

So she got a second opinion right away, she said at Starbucks that day.

"Because of her I was pro-active," she said. "She helped save my life in a lot of ways."

The last time she saw her friend was three weeks ago, and the last time she talked to her was Friday night.

She had some good news to share with the other Tracy -- the mom who had fought so hard for so long to stay alive for her boys, Skye, 11, and Laken, 8.

So she sent her a text message: Can you talk?

And Tracy's mom called her back. She put Tracy on the phone.

Her friend was weak, Tracy Poppe said. She told her the news: She and her husband had been accepted at an adoption agency.

"She knew how much that meant to me."

She told her how happy she was for her. She told her she loved her.

Tracy Lingwall Harnly's blog is called "My Cancer and Me." It's bordered in bright pink. At the top is a photo of Tracy, blond and smiling in sunglasses making the sign for "I love you."

There is one last post, dated the day she died, written by her sister.

2.20.2011: Today at 9:20am I received my wings! ... What I am thankful for: HEAVEN!!

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Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

 

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