GENEVA – Former Geneva resident Vicki Waterman, who advocated for health exercise, taught fitness classes and raised money for cancer charities, died Sept. 23 of pancreatic cancer in Naples, Florida. She was 62 years old.
Waterman had her breasts and ovaries removed at age 49 because she had the BRCA 1 gene, which causes breast and ovarian cancer. She sold her fitness studio in Geneva in 2016 and moved to Naples where she continued to teach. In May 2021, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – also caused by the BRCA 1 gene.
In April, while still undergoing chemotherapy, Waterman hosted Sweat for the Cure in St. Charles Park District exercise class and fundraiser for LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
The next day, she participated in the PanCan PurpleStride at Soldier Field to help fund his work for earlier diagnosis, better treatment and a cure for pancreatic cancer.
“It’s a loss for everyone,” said David, her husband of 36 years. “She touched everyone, both figuratively and literally.”
Waterman had three months to live but survived 15 months, her husband said.
“We talked about her condition and everyone, of course, prayed for a miracle and for medical science to take over,” David said. “In the end, she was really compromised. She said – and I’ll never forget this: ‘Maybe my miracle isn’t tomorrow, it’s 12 months from yesterday.’ So profound.”
Waterman was known for her energy, a woman constantly on the go and encouraging exercise and fitness to others for the sake of their health.
The last weeks of her life were in bed, where she resigned herself to rest, David said.
“Her DNA was built on movement and dance,” her husband said. “When that was taken away, it really hurt her. … I told her children that their mother was alive, but she was not.”
Jennifer Turcic, Waterman’s best friend and business partner in a company called Wearable Weights in Geneva, said Waterman’s “energy and love are boundless.”
“People just loved being around her. That’s also what made people fall in love with themselves again,” said Turcic, who lives in Naples and Geneva. “In her teachings, people became stronger and more confident. … It had this exponential ripple effect.”
But even when he wasn’t teaching exercise, Waterman’s connection with ordinary people—even for a few minutes—was extraordinary.
“It could have been the Uber driver or the bank teller,” Turcic said. “She had this energy and sense of happiness that would change people’s days. … She took the time to take care of every single person.”
One thing Waterman didn’t show publicly was her cancer pain.
“I would wrap her in compression every morning so she could manage the pain and reduce the movement in that area … because of the mid-abdominal distension,” her husband said. “I would wrap it as tight as humanly possible. And she went out the door. And who needs to know?”
But of all the drugs she took, nothing eased the pain, he said, but she never complained.
“Fentanyl patches, morphine, tramadol, dilaudid … they create side effects like nausea, headaches … and none of it works,” her husband said. “She was in excruciating pain for a long time.”
Shortly after her walk to raise funds for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in late April, her condition really began to deteriorate, David said.
“We had planned a trip to Europe, but that was a bridge too far,” her husband said. “When I canceled, it broke her heart. ‘I thought I was going to beat this thing.’ … That was her belief. … But that was impossible. No one has ever done this.
Her husband said he thinks of his wife’s life as the bright colors of spilled paint swirled together.
“It’s beautiful and creative, but there’s formality and structure,” David said. “That’s how I saw her. Her creativity was a virtue. She was the most virtuous woman I will ever meet.
According to her obituary, Waterman’s funeral in Naples was private. Memorial donations may be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.