Mariola and Gracie Kochowski were twins and did everything together. Both beautiful and talented girls they went to the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. Later as women they attended F.I.T. and received degrees in Fashion Design. Both worked as designers at Liz Claiborne, Gracie in the NJ office and Mariola in Manhattan. They were full of life and had everything ahead of them. Together as always, they went for a palm reading one day, but the readings were separate and private. When Gracie asked her twin to reveal her reading, she would not. She did not want to talk about it. To this day Gracie wonders if Mariola's destiny were truly written on the palm of her hand.
Mariola was a respected, smart and prolific designer with a flourishing brand under her supervision. But at the age of 44, Mariola died of breast cancer leaving behind her fiancé Walter, her parents, her brothers and sisters including her twin sister Gracie.
Her struggle was quiet, personal yet she spoke about it openly. She underwent a mastectomy and then reconstruction. After the expected treatments that take such a toll on the human body, she was glad to eat ice cream and gain back some weight so they could harvest fat from her abdomen for her new natural breast. She traveled to LA with her work colleagues for business, often in a reflective mood, but focused on her work all the same. Her long thick hair was now short and sleek. When the news came that she was cancer free everyone at her office breathed a sigh of relief. She became engaged to her long term partner and started to plan a wedding. Happiness was on the horizon.
Her remission was to be short-lived. After putting her life back together she received news from her doctors that her cancer had metastasized to her brain. Her colleagues, friends and family rallied to find her the best surgeon and facility. She endured the invasive surgery to remove the tumor. The news came back to the office that it was successful and she did well. On that day Mariola sent a bouquet of the most beautiful flowers to each and every person she worked with closely at her office. Some thought she would recover and there were many tears and words of hope.
“She was one of a kind and a really caring and great person. She was my best friend. I live out west now and think of her here with me: she always wanted to move out west. She loved skiing and being by the ocean. Mariola was full of life.” - Gracie Kochowski
As an engaged woman she continued to plan her wedding. She knew a French couturier through his wife, and asked him to design her gown. Would he and his wife accompany her and her sister Gracie one Saturday to a bridal fair in New Jersey?
Mariola was giddy that day, uncharacteristic laughter punctuating her sentences. She wore a long blond wig and a baseball cap in an attempt to camouflage the hair piece. Her makeup was heavy handed and her face appeared swollen to those who looked closely. Yet she seemed unaware that she was unwell. Perhaps that was the consequence of brain surgery. Perhaps it was something merciful. On that day it was clear that there would be no gown, no wedding. We lost her on Christmas Day 2004.
Most of our lives have been touched by the loss of someone like Mariola, someone unique and irreplaceable. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the color pink is worn to honor those who have survived, remember those we've lost and support those who fight against the disease that is the 2nd leading cause of death among women. At LeSaint French Chocolate, we donate to the organization Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) and have created an exclusive Pink Chocolate♀︎Collection in support of women who struggle with this disease. 20% of our proceeds on the sale of Pink Chocolate♀︎will be donated in the month of October to LBBC. In the Month of October Honor, Support & Remember.