Holidays are time when families come together to celebrate, but for many families, holidays are a painful reminder of loved ones who are not there, whose lives were stolen, whose chairs remain empty and whose absence is always present.
Lori Czyzewski Haberstroh died of metastatic breast cancer on December 23, 2019, the night before Christmas Eve. At Christmas, Lori’s chair remained empty. The hole in the hearts of everyone that loved her is shaped like Lori – no one and nothing else can fit it.
Lori was the loving mother of Madison Baker and Mia Lugaila, and step-mother of Alexia and Alauna Haberstroh. On November 28th, she posted on her Facebook page,
What Lori was made of, and what all the women in her family are made of, is an incomparable and exquisite combination of iron, gold, and pure love.
Lori was kind and funny and sweet. She was committed to holiday decorations, reality dating shows, Coach purses, and her hot tub. She was educated, smart, curious, a self-declared book nerd, and always eager to learn something new. Lori was an RN at the University of Pittsburgh, where she worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Children’s Hospital. She was very proud of her job and truly loved what she did.
One of the most generous people I ever knew, Lori was prone to adopting stray cats and friends without families in Pittsburgh (as I was when we first met). The magic of Lori continues as she keeps bringing together people who would have never met otherwise, but for shared love for her.
She was fearless – not because she was never scared, but because she always faced her fears. When she was first diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, Lori understood that 30% of early stage patients develop metastatic breast cancer and immediately became a tireless advocate for the MBC community. She was a member of the Pittsburgh Metsquerade from its inception, long before she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer.
In June of 2019, when she received the news that cancer metastasized to her bones, Lori wrote:
And how she roared!!! After her MBC diagnosis, she traveled to Washington, DC, with one of her beloved daughters to advocate on Capitol Hill for more money for the treatment of MBC. Lori plotted together how to raise more money for Metavivor and Pittsburgh Metsquerade in order to fund research for treatment of MBC. She knew very well that those efforts may not help her directly, but she wanted to do her part so that we don’t lose 116 people to MBC every day.
As I am writing this, I am thinking of all the other plans that we had and that will never happen because MBC stole Lori: We never went to see a football game together like we planned, or had dinner with Andrea. I never had chance to show you my new home or check out your hot tub. I never gave you a last hug, but I tried to hug you to health each time I saw you.
Lori has been more than a friend to many people. She became a family member even to those who were not related to her by blood; a sister, a mentor, a shining light. She continues to inspire and guide those who loved her. Her roar continues. Or, as she would say it, she will #keepswimming in many hearts and minds. Her beautiful smile and her kind spirit help us find the way when darkness becomes too dark.
Love you, always and forever, sweet friend.
Written by Sasha Milicevic