Friday, April 19, 2013

Katie's Story Part I (from the OC Register article published April 12, 2013)

I know a girl named Catherine Elizabeth Hawley, Katie for short. She is one of the most courageous people I know. She is thirteen. She is gorgeous! She has cancer.

Pediatric cancer is a difficult and painful subject to discuss. It breaks my heart to think of all the families that have heard the words "it’s cancer" when they have hoped and prayed they would hear anything but that. It's a gut wrenching, cut-you-to-your-soul kind of pain that too many families have to experience on a daily basis. The Hawley family first heard those destructive words in 2009. Neuroblastoma. It had the power to take their breath and joy away. Those five little syllables. What happens then? How do you pick yourself up and keep walking that path? Especially when you’ve battled and fought to get off the path and then you hear “it’s back”. February 13th they heard those words.

I don't know the answer, but in getting to know this family and doing life together, I would hope I could do it with as much grace and faith. Watching them has given our family a new view of how precious and fragile life is. We have no guarantees. Whether we are here for 9 more weeks or 90 more years, we need to make each one count for something. Putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward even though we don’t know what might be waiting down the road, puts our focus on each step. It brings the reality of our time here into full exposure.

Mary Kay Hawley, Katie’s brave and courageous mother, is walking that road for the second time. Some days, skipping down it, determined to keep groups of young teens entertained while teaching them the importance of building friendships and having each other's backs. Other days, crawling on her hands and knees, refusing to give up, fighting just to take another step. Since first hearing the news of recurrence, it has been a daily rally of balancing the terrible with the beautiful. Family, friends, and fun, mixed in with doctor visits, hospital stays, tests, chemo treatments and tears. The silly faces, long nights of hanging with the people that mean the most, and snapshots of those giggles and belly laughs are what gets her through. Finding those blessings among the uncertainty is a gift and those that live with more-than-they-ever-wanted-to-know-about-cancer wait with open arms to receive it.

That's the other side of Pediatric Cancer: the side that you can’t fully comprehend unless you are living it. It changes the focus from the everyday routine to the moment by moment. It becomes something that reminds us what real life is all about. Real life struggles and disappoints, but it can be pure joy when in the midst of that hurt, you find yourself laughing, smiling and enjoying a moment that will be remembered. That is what is important. To be continued…

If you are asking yourself, “What can I do?” please follow these links for some life changing ideas: Donate to Pediatric Cancer Research

Sign up for Reach for the Cure! {H}

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