Sometimes the Universe has plans that are hard to ignore. Several years ago I was sitting in Peter Wahlstrom’s Greek Philosophy class when a women student I barely knew tapped me on the shoulder. “Psst, Gail,” she whispered. “Have you ever taken a class by Dr. Claudia Kittock?”
“Noooooo,” I said slowly. (Why was this unknown-to-me student asking this?) “What does she teach?”
“Psychology. But she does a lot with gender studies and, well, she just makes you think, you know? You HAVE to take one of her classes.”
I wrote Dr. Claudia Kittock on my notebook and scribbled “good teacher,” next to her name. The semester wore on and eventually March came around. As an anniversary present I had given my husband a weekend in Ely, Minnesota, doing a “Mush and Howl.” The package included dog sledding and a day at the International Wolf Center. When he returned home he gushed about the wonderful time he had had. My husband said the group consisted of people–young and old– from all over the United States.
“Oh!” he said, “By coincidence there was a guy from Cambridge.” My husband pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and read something off of it. “His name was Rick Kittock, and he said his wife teaches at the college. Do you know her?”
I explained I didn’t know her yet, but she had come highly recommended.
When the time came to sign up for classes I looked up Claudia. She was going to be teaching a summer class in General Psychology, so I plunked down my tuition money eager to meet this extraordinary woman. As spring classes were winding down, the same shoulder-tapping student came into class looking distraught. “Gail, have you heard? Dr. Kittock is dying.”
“What?” I said aghast. “I’m going to be taking her class this summer. I haven’t heard anything about this. What’s wrong?”
“Well, the rumor is she has cancer really bad, and won’t live much longer. It’s a shame because she is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.”
I was saddened to hear the news, and waited to get the class cancellation notice. It didn’t come. Claudia did have cancer, but Claudia chose to live. It wasn’t easy, and her body carries both visible and invisible scars from the skirmish. Needless to say, I went on to have three classes with Claudia. And yes, she was, and is, one of those rare teachers that make a difference. Over time she became a dear, dear, friend. For an upcoming In-10-tions segment—look under the “Menopause…What are they saying now?” link—Claudia and I sat down this morning and discussed her journey through cancer.
It is my goal to bring meaningful stories and information to those who visit this website. I believe Claudia’s words will be a great gift for anyone who is facing cancer, or knows someone who is. When that student tapped me on the shoulder, I think it was actually the Universe telling me, “Psst…Gail. You NEED to know this woman.” The Universe was right. Claudia…you are the best part of my day, and treasured by all who truly know you.