Fighting For Life vs. Self-Destructive

A dear friend passed away this weekend, a special angel of a person who though she fought a battle against cancer for 14 years, was always worrying, caring, and giving to others. My friend, Holly Harwood Skolkin, a talented photographer and mother to two beautiful young adults, Emory and Dayna, had a cancer recurrence recently that she fought as per usual like a warrior, yet this final time the cancer beat her.

I can’t help making a comparison because this weekend Whitney Houston also died, albeit with very different circumstances. Pills and alcohol are already suspected, and though I am not judging her and other addicts, it is not hard to figure that playing with fire can get you burnt. The long road of addiction is almost like a death wish due to the risks involved. I felt the same way when Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson passed away. Talented, yet tragic figures who seemed to taunt and tease an early death with their addictions and lifestyles. The same goes for Whitney. I do admire the talents of all of the performers we end up revering, but I don’t elevate them to the status that most do. I can’t grieve for their untimely deaths but feel sorry that a talent went to waste. So many gone too soon.

NOTE: I am not judging, and I do realize addiction is also a disease, but there is TREATMENT for this disease.

For Holly, she is gone much too soon, as some other dear friends of mine who lost their battles to disease and cancer. Yet I openly grieve for them. They fought for life, enduring harsh treatments, and a diminished quality of life that goes with those treatments. They make the courageous choice to fight their disease.

Despite 14 years of treatment and some bouts of remission of symptoms, Holly never stopped living and loving life. She fought like a tiger for her life – to live and see her children grow, to share in all of their milestones. She was tenacious, brave, and determined in her war against her disease. No matter how she was battled down during certain periods, she would overcome. Through this last chapter, though she was weakened beyond all measure, she was determined to conquer once again. She knew she had so much to live for.

In between her incapacitations, Holly was a giver. She helped other patients who were sick, through Aishel House, (one of her favorite charities) through support groups, and through being a friend to anyone who experienced cancer or disease. As her quality of life improved following treatments, she ramped up her volunteerism to care for others. She was vibrant, vivacious, and always smiling – in other words – a true champion of spirit.

As I grieve and as her family and our community grieves for the loss of a genuinely good human being who fought so valiantly to live her life, I can’t help making the comparison to those who are self-destructive and recklessly play Russian Roulette with their life.

I have said so many times before – we should take care in what and who we admire and put on a pedestal. Singing or acting talent is to be appreciated, but should we revere those who are self-destructive and value their lives so much when they obviously do not?

Instead we should pour all of that admiration energy into those among us who we should recognize and appreciate – the true heroes.


  • Arlene,
    Thanks for your moving post. I completely agree that it is ridiculous to admire people who can throw a ball or sing a tune more than those who help others and fight courageous battles. But remember this, Holly’s legacy of love and giving will profoundly change the lives of all she left behind, while Whitney will be just a footnote in a long
    Line of deceased stars.

  • Arlene, I am so sorry for your loss. I couldn’t agree with you more. I know many on your Facebook page are trying to defend drug and alcohol use as diseases, but there is help out there for them. Plus, there is so much enabling going on with these celebrities. Who is writing the prescription drugs???? Who is turning a blind eye to this behavior??? In most cases, these tragic deaths could have been prevented, but the power and money involved, stopped them from getting help.

  • As a caregiver to my young wife, who is desperately fighting for her life with so much to live for, and who never abused her body with drugs and alcohol, I find it difficult to revere and feel bad for those who have it all and insist on being self destructive. Just my opinion, but I am entitled to it!

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