There is something that my colleagues and I often say to one another… It always seems that the most resistant cancers happen to the nicest people. It would be hard for me to find a better example of that statement than Katie.
I remember the day that we first met at St. Mary’s hospital – admitted with a mass in her chest, awaiting a biopsy, surrounded by her concerned family members. However, despite the uncertainty of what lay ahead, she remained cool headed and strong – betraying the resilience that she demonstrated in battling her cancer over the year or so that followed.
I must admit that I would look forward to meeting Katie at her appointments as they would always brighten up my day. Furthermore, I can say with certainty, that many of the other staff at Mayo shared similar sentiments. Many other trainees and staff would often ask me how Katie was doing, how far she is along with her treatment, when I would next be seeing her, etc. Why wouldn’t they want to be a part of her life? She was pleasant to interact with, intelligent, always full of questions and planning as far into the future as she possibly could. Frequently, we would end up discussing every possible permutation (and perhaps a few more) of what could happen and how that issue would be addressed. I actively had to hold her back and remind her that cancer is too unpredictable to be thought of as a road to which one needs to get to the end of as soon as possible. Rather, as described by one of our past fellows who himself passed away from cancer, it needs to be considered a journey that one needs to travel through.
I also remember how excited she was when she changed her photograph in the electronic medical record from a not-so-happy Katie with hair to a glowing, hairless Katie with a fantastic smile. Shortly after my clinic visit, she was admitted for a session of inpatient chemotherapy. The resident who was gathering information from the chart on her history took one look at the picture and said, “Just goes to show. You don’t need hair on your head to look beautiful.” Don’t worry Drew… it was a female resident (wink!)
Finally, when it comes to cancer, having a good support system is crucial. If I recall correctly, I believe Katie only came alone to one single appointment. Otherwise, her doting family members would always be there to help her pull through all the acronyms that I kept inundating her with. So, thank you all for being there for her when she needed it most.
In my culture, when someone passes away, we say, “Surely we belong to God, and to Him we shall return.” Katie has indeed moved on, however her presence will be missed and I won’t forget her.
Thank you for listening.