At PCRF, we love celebrating survivors every chance we get. But we also celebrate the bravest warriors of them all, and their courageous fight in the battle against cancer. Every day, we hear stories about communities and families rallying together to raise awareness in their loved one’s memory. Stories that are incredibly inspiring and powerful.
This Valentine’s Day, we are remembering our loved ones – whose lives deserve to be shared and celebrated today, and every day. These cancer warriors inspire us to keep pushing forward, fighting for a cure. Their legacies continue to live on by the efforts of their friends and family.
Meet Jennifer, PCRF Ambassador who became involved with PCRF after seeing her best friend, Katie go through a devastating battle with cancer. Jennifer tells us Katie’s story, the memories they shared together, and the importance of research.
“I met Katie during my first few weeks of freshman year at Dartmouth College. We were on the same dorm floor. Katie was vivacious and opinionated, deeply compassionate, and incredibly smart (her organic chemistry teacher had to throw out her exams because her 98% would have ruined the curve for everyone else). She was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and cried when the Bears lost the Super Bowl in 2007. We became friends quickly, and by the end of freshman year, we were inseparable.
I knew Katie had survived pediatric cancer in high school and that was why she wanted to be a pediatric oncologist, but she never talked about it and I didn’t want to pry. The only time it would come up was in January. On the anniversary of her initial diagnosis, what she deemed “F Cancer Day” (as I said, Katie was from the South Side of Chicago), she would always go out to dinner and party. It was a celebration of life after cancer.
Katie’s cancer, Wilms Tumor, recurred in her first year of medical school at the University of Chicago. I was in my second year of law school in New York, and I can still remember exactly where I was when she texted me the diagnosis. Two years of remission and recurrence followed. I learned how much cancer patients suffer not just from cancer itself but from the aggressive methods of treatment required to save them as I saw Katie undergo rounds of treatment, each with increasing long-term side effects. The radiation treatment hurt Katie’s lungs so badly that she could barely walk upstairs without resting to catch her breath.
At the end of 2013, Katie told me she wasn’t going to get her scans done until after Christmas. Despite a clear scan in September, she didn’t think it would be good news, and she wanted to wait until after Christmas to find out, so her family wouldn’t have to suffer over the holidays. She was right: the cancer was back. In January, she made the decision that she wasn’t going to continue treatment. She had endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy.
Katie and I traveled to California together at the end of March 2014. We loved California, and we both planned to eventually move to Los Angeles. Her health got worse and worse over the week we were there, and when we got to the airport to fly home, a flight attendant had to take her to her flight in a wheelchair. Less than a week later, Katie’s brother texted me that I had to get to Chicago immediately if I wanted to say goodbye to her. I flew to Chicago the next morning and stood with her family as Katie passed away. She was 25.
Over the course of a three-year battle, I watched the life drain out of my best friend, one of the liveliest, most passionate people I’ve ever met. What feels so insidious about cancer is that we watch as the bodies of our loved ones turn against them. I am so proud to work with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation because it seeks not just to support finding a cure to cancer, but to find better treatments that are less harmful to the quality of life of those being treated.”
Join us as we work toward a tomorrow where all children are able to pursue their full measure of happiness without the burden of cancer. Your gift powers hope.