I was driving from NC to VA when I got the call. My husband and I were in the process of moving back to our hometown for the summer. He was driving the moving truck and I was singing along to the radio at the top of my lungs in the car behind him. We had spent the last week cramming through final exams, packing up our NC apartment, attending our graduations and celebrating his Air Force commissioning ceremony. We had less than 24 hours to get to VA and settle in before I started summer school. So singing obnoxiously loud was just one of my many attempts to stay awake behind the wheel.
Half-way through the drive my phone started ringing. I looked down to discover it was one of my best friends, Katie. Earlier that day, Katie had sent me a text to let me know she had some news to tell me. I thought for sure she was calling to tell me that she was pregnant or that she had bought a house. Nothing could have prepared for me for what she actually said.
“I have cancer,” Katie quickly informed me. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach and I struggled to find my breath. With tears quietly streaming down my face, I tried (probably unsuccessfully) to keep my voice composed for my sweet friend on the other end of the phone.
She was eerily calm as she told me what little information she had at the time and kept saying, “But I’m fine. Really, I’m fine. Don’t worry.”
Within a couple short weeks, the seriousness of Katie’s diagnosis became devastatingly apparent. For the sake of Katie’s privacy, I will not share the details. That is Katie’s story to tell. My focus in this post is not to reveal the gritty details of her diagnosis or to start a gossip chain about her condition. My goal is simply to honor the remarkable woman I am privileged to call one of my most precious friends.
Katie is only 25 years old, but she has handled her situation with the grace and faith of someone wise beyond her years. Katie’s cancer is not her identity. Before cancer ever became part of her life, Katie was already a strong, resilient woman who remained unwavering in her faith no matter what storms she encountered. Katie’s battle with cancer is only one more example of how her remarkable spirit has fearlessly risen to the challenge, refused to give up, and heroically taken on the impossible.
I first had the honor of getting to know Katie on a church retreat in high school. Within a matter of hours, I found myself amazed at the challenges this young teenager had already overcome. As a high school student, she had already faced what many would consider the worst of the worst. But without hearing her story, you would never have known she had walked through such difficult times. Her faith in God, her love for others, and her abundant joy were the things everyone noticed about her (and still are to this day).
With all she had been through, you might imagine that Katie would have turned into a bitter, rebellious teen who hated God and everyone around her. But Katie was the total opposite. This teenager loved God and loved others at a level many of us could only hope of one day reaching. She dreamed of traveling to war-torn, impoverished, disease-stricken countries and sharing the love of Jesus with hurting people.
After graduating from high school and mastering the skills of nursing, Katie ventured off to Sudan eager to love and encourage people in need. She sacrificed the security and luxuries of home, stepped outside of her comfort zone, and selflessly put the needs of others before her own. Several months later, Katie returned home and continued sacrificing for the benefit of those around her. She stepped back into her role as nurse, big sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend and eventually wife.
But in each of these roles, Katie has always gone above and beyond what anyone would expect of her. For as long as I have known Katie, she has stepped up as a leader in her family and been an incredible role model to her four younger siblings. She has taught them what being a godly woman truly means, supported them in every possible way, and made certain they never forgot how to laugh in the midst of hard times. When her grandfather was sick, she did everything in her power to love, encourage and comfort him and his sweet wife. When her friends have been in need, Katie has always rushed to their side. Whenever I have gone through struggles of my own, Katie has always showered me with cards and prayers, regardless of her own crises. The list goes on…
Katie is the real deal, y’all. Her raw and genuine love is a true gift. She calls things out the way she sees it and is not afraid to acknowledge the truth, even if it’s painful. She takes on challenges like they’re nothing and hates it when people pity her. Although her voice may be quiet, her words are powerful when she speaks. She refuses to worry. Instead, she insists on trusting God regardless of how dark the present situation might seem. She does not look at the outcome of situations and then decide to trust God because everything turned out alright. Instead, she stares into the deadliest of battles and chooses to rely on God, no matter the outcome.
A few weeks ago, Katie suffered a rupture in her abdomen that sent her to the ICU. Family and friends flooded the ER waiting room terrified of what this could mean for our sweet girl. But hours later, when the hospital finally let us see her, Katie was sitting up in her bed, making faces at us, sporting her breathtakingly gorgeous smile, and lovingly fussing at all of us for worrying about her.
Thankfully, Katie is out of the hospital now and continuing to fight with the utmost bravery. Those of us who love her so dearly are pleading with God for a miracle and are trying our best to follow her example of faith, rather than fearing the worst. But no matter what happens in our sweet girl’s life, I know her character will continue to amaze us all. Katie is incredible, inspirational and irreplaceable.
Thank you, Katie, for being an example for us all. Thank you for going above and beyond in your relationships. Thank you for never giving up. Thank you for teaching me how to laugh in the midst of despair, how to hope in the face of the impossible, and how to have faith in the face of the unknown. I love you, sweet friend, more than you will ever know.
May we all learn from Katie’s example and may we too never give up, no matter what comes our way.
Please share this post & join me in praying for Katie as she continues fighting the good fight!