Outliers for Hope

Karen and her daughter Katie agree they’ve grown closer since Katie’s diagnosis.

For 17 years, Katie has survived.

“I am tired, but I am glad,” she says softly.

After three brain tumor diagnoses, two brain surgeries (one while awake), paralysis of her right side, radiation and eight years and six weeks on chemotherapy, she continues to rise. 

Life was interrupted. Forced to leave college in her junior year. Unjustly lost her job. Grappled with the emotions of uncertainty. Contemplated a future without a family of her own. And yet, Katie forged ahead.

“I don’t know how she does it,” her mom, Karen said. “She just doesn’t get discouraged easily.”

Katie wants you to know that by persevering, she is surviving. And by surviving, she is living life by her own rules. She’s hopeful to pave the way for more long-term brain tumor survivors.

In 2002, at the age of 20, Katie was a junior in college. On a crisp fall day, Katie experienced symptoms of numbness, leading her to the emergency room. Her parents rushed to make the six-hour drive to be with Katie—she was alone in the hospital with the Dean of the university when a doctor informed her she had a mass on her brain. 

Her parents arrived, packed up her dorm room and brought her home. Katie was diagnosed with ganglioglioma. 

Her first brain surgery left Katie paralyzed on her right side. A former swimmer, Katie took to the calmness of the water to regain functionality. Through fierce determination, she returned to college, graduated with an accounting degree and started her career.

In 2007, Katie found herself at the hospital once again—this time diagnosed with glioblastoma. The doctor recommended awake brain surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. To no one’s surprise, Katie was fearless during the surgery, singing along with music and sharing her favorite recipes. “It was kind of fun,” she remarked.

Every year she lives longer, there’s new research and a chance for new treatment, giving us more hope.

A couple years later, Katie decided she wasn’t going to be shortchanged by a couple of brain tumors. So, she shined up her bald head and signed up for eHarmony. And what do you know, she fell in love.

Oh, but how life has a way of interrupting. In 2009, after a regular follow-up scan, Katie learned that the tumor had returned.

Rounds of radiation and chemotherapy followed, as well as an engagement party and a wedding. Yes, Katie got married in 2011. And, a couple years later, Katie gave birth to a baby boy named Liam. 

Since 2015, ongoing follow-up scans continue to show spots on her brain. The doctors are currently monitoring between nine to 13 spots. “They come and go,” says Katie. 

“Every year she lives longer, there’s new research and a chance for new treatment, giving us more hope,” says her mom. “We’re amazingly blessed that Katie has done so well.”

Katie and Karen have attended the American Brain Tumor Association National Conference for nearly a decade. “The ABTA community is amazing. Katie is one of the outliers, so sharing her story gives others hope. And that’s what we all need,” Karen smiled.

 

Help ensure the American Brain Tumor Association continues to provide Katie and Karen and other brain tumor survivors and caregivers with opportunities to learn, connect and inspire.

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