Hi Seeking Advice, I am very sorry to hear of your situation.
I'M NOT A LAWYER, nor am I aware of ALL the details of your circumstances. THE FOLLOWING IS NOT ADVICE, only personal opinion.
First, know that there are two types of foreclosure: judicial and non-judicial (a.k.a. trustee sale foreclosure). Most foreclosures in CA are via the non-judicial method due to the expense of a judicial foreclosure. Given these definitions, there a number of ways a lender may or may not be able to go after personal assets (like your cash) via a deficiency judgment after a foreclosure (it does make a difference on how the property is foreclosed.)
For an Owner-Occupied home where:
1) A lender made a purchase money (non-recourse) loan, then NO deficiency judgment can be attempted. If a senior lienholder forecloses on the property, the "wiped out" junior lienholder who no longer has a secured note may not sue on this promissory note.
2) A Seller financed a purchase money loan (non-recourse), NO deficiency judgment can be attempted (non-recourse loan). If a senior lienholder forecloses on the property, the "wiped out" junior lienholder who no longer has a secured note may not sue on this promissory note
3) You as the owner of the property, refinanced the property (recourse loan), then a deficiency judgment CAN be attempted if a judicial foreclosure was used. This is NOT allowed under a non-judicial foreclosure. HOWEVER, if a senior lienholder (i.e. the first loan) forecloses on the property, the "wiped out" junior lienholder (i.e. the home equity lender) who no longer has a secured note MAY SUE on this promissory note.
Again, judicial foreclosures in California are rare, as the lender must sue the borrower to obtain a decree of foreclosure and order of sale. The court may also order that the borrower has up to one year to redeem the property. For this reason, non-judicial foreclosure is more popular.
Be aware that just because a loan is titled a "Home Equity Loan" it DOES NOT necessarily mean it has recourse/deficiency judgment status as the use of the funds can establish recourse protections.
A REAL ESTATE LAWYER SHOULD REVIEW YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION and this is where your options should be derived from.