Friday, March 11, 2011

Caity continues to amaze!!

Caity a few weeks ago...

Caity last night...

Caity raised well over $3,000 to benefit pediatric cancer research last night by shaving her head! The St. Baldrick's fundraiser was held at Fado's Pub in downtown Seattle. Not only did she raised money but she also donated her hair to "Locks of Love".

I really am having a hard time grasping how incredible Caity's journey has been. To consider all that she's gone through, the uncertain road ahead, AND the fact that she just turned 14 which of course ushers in all sorts chaos into a kid's life, her decision to help others in this way is remarkable. Cancer dealt her such a tough hand in life but she has elected to fight back in every way that she possible can.

What occupied your thought process when you were 14? Probably the typical drama that has been going on ever since that incredibly awkward vehicle called "junior high" was invented. Caity is going through all of the same things but in addition, as her mom Misti refers to it, she is still dealing with "The Monster". Her monster is not a make believe one that hides under the bed either. Her monster is one that the best minds in the world are joining together to try to eliminate. In the meantime, Caity and her doctors are doing their best to keep it at bay and under control and for now, it's working.

What's also so touching to witness is how kids who are struggling with cancer connect with each other. Last night Caity bumped into a few other kids that are on the same wacky roller coaster that she is. They connected instantly like magnets that belonged together. Their bond is like something that only those who have walked the walk can really understand. The comfort they give each other is absolutely beautiful. Earlier in the day I visited one of Caity's good friends at Children's. When I told Caity that her friend wanted me to congratulate her on her accomplishment Caity just beamed.

Amidst the turmoil of Caity's day to day life, she still manages to generate that great smile which proves that she first and foremost wants to enjoy life to the fullest. I told her once last night that I wanted to take just one shot of her not smiling from ear to ear. She said enthusiastically, "I can't NOT smile!" (wouldn't that be a great bumper sticker for everyone's life?!) I did manage to capture just a fleeting reflective moment though in which I felt like she was looking to the future, with hope.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Karen speaks

My wife and I just spent a wonderful couple of days with our dear friend Karen Gerstenberger. We're working together on a video project focusing on family-centered care based on Karen's family's cancer journey, which began in the fall of 2006 with their daughter Katie's diagnosis. Karen's ability to revisit such difficult times and still be able to pick the perfect words to express her feelings is an absolute gift. Having a couple of video cameras pointed at her had to make it more difficult but that didn't even seem to phase her one bit.

Heidi and I witnessed something incredible these past two days; a mother's undying love for her daughter. It's been almost four years since Katie's life was cut short by cancer but she is remembered and honored every day and in every step that Karen takes. Through sharing her family's most difficult and most emotional moments and chronically the tragic loss of dear Katie, Karen hopes to help improve the way hospitals treat the critically ill as well as to help families that might unexpectedly find themselves in a similar life and death struggle. There is a fellowship amongst those whose lives have been turned upside down and changed forever by cancer or other life threatening illness. Those looking in from the outside can never know what it really is like unless they join the club at some point in their lives. The by product of listening however, is a truly wonderful thing...compassion. And compassion is something that can affect positive change anywhere it is directed. That is the goal of the project that Karen and I are working on.

I am truly blessed and honored that Karen is willing to share her story with me in hopes of helping others.
March 4, 2011 at Karen's home
Karen & Katie, just two weeks before Katie passed away in August, 2007