Just call them the Golden Girls, Holly Bialorucki said of she and her two sisters.
The 2013 Mrs. California International calls herself the Blanche of the group, a Southern Bell type. Sister Lizette Finelli takes on the Dorothy role, looking after her sisters, and Gina Bass is definitely Rose, sweet and funny, said Holly, who even imagined themselves growing old and sharing a home together just like the original Golden Girls. They already live within walking distance to each others’ homes in El Dorado Hills, why not share one?
But that idea dimmed when Gina received a terrible diagnosis earlier this year. She suffered with pain around her ribs for a month or two and then, at the urging of her doctor, got an X-ray that revealed a lot of fluid had built up around her lungs. She went to the hospital for treatment and tests.
Holly said she remembers waiting to hear from her sister when she received a text.
“It was awful. I just glanced at the text and all I could see was stage 4 cancer,” Holly recalled. “I immediately called her and said, ‘This can’t be.’”
At only 48, Gina, a married mother of four, had non-smoking related stage 4 adenocarcinoma lung cancer.
At a fundraiser in Oak Ridge High School’s parking lot Sunday all three sisters said the diagnosis still hasn’t really set in. But that didn’t stop Holly and Lizette, along with their brother Chris Finelli, from jumping into action. They hosted a community yard sale and harvest festival featuring vendors, children’s activities and belly dancers (Lizette included). Chris is also setting up a youcaring.com account for Gina and her family.
Chris said he remembers the grim discussion and the first oncologist’s office where the doctor had a hard time looking at Gina. The sadness in the room was in sharp contrast to the happier and stronger memories he has. More than a decade older than his sisters, Chris was married and living in Santa Cruz when they were teenagers. The girls would visit their brother in the “beach retreat.”
“They’d camp out in the back yard,” he recalled with a smile.
More smiles than tears emerged Sunday, a testament to the family’s strength and resolve.
“I’m here to be Gina’s guiding light, to be her cheerleader … and comic relief,” Lizette said as she swayed her hips in her belly dancing costume. “We’re staying in the light. Miracles happen every day.”
The comic relief continued when Gina arrived; Lizette and Holly took turns walking in front and behind their sister as they tried to strike the perfect pose for a Village Life photograph.
Looking around at the festival-goers, Gina said, “I’m just overwhelmed. I don’t know how to say thank you to everybody.”
Gina’s family and friends haven’t been the only people to lend her a hand. Coworkers at Raley’s in El Dorado Hills gave her their vacation time so she could focus on her treatment and her family. She’s worked for the company since 2006 and transferred from a Folsom store to the El Dorado Hills location about two years ago.
“I don’t think she realized how loved she is,” Holly said, holding on to her sister’s hand.
“I didn’t,” Gina confessed.