The Journey. . .
“All of life is a journey: which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there.” Dag Hammarskjold
May 3, 2010
Katelyn Atwell was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 12 and soon after she began chemotherapy she fell ill with Bacillus cereus meningitis (at the time only 6 cases of this rare disease had been documented) and within days Katelyn slipped into a coma for over a year. Katelyn’s family was told that there was no hope, but they would not accept this outcome, nor would Katelyn. Katelyn’s temperature would reach 108 degrees for hours at a time, she had countless seizures, 2 stokes, and 20 brain surgeries, but Katelyn and her family would not give up their hope, faith or will to survive.
Katelyn awoke from her coma, and her cancer is in remission, and one might think Katelyn would be taking things easy, and certainly no one could fault her if she did. But Katelyn is not that type of person. She continues physical therapy as her body still struggles to do things most people take for granted. Katelyn also dedicates a lot of her time for fund raising, as she decided to raise 3 million dollars for St. Jude, in a effort to repay St. Jude for the medical expenses incurred over years of treatment at the hospital. She started a charity golf tournament three years ago as part of her fund raising, and this year she even swung the clubs. As she needs a stool or a steadying hand to swing the clubs, this is no small feat.
Katelyn’s story is a hard one to listen to and it makes me ache to the core. I struggle to wrap my head around incredibly difficult journey she has been on. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and difficulty Katelyn and her family have endured. Perhaps the only thing more difficult to imagine, however, is Katelyn’s undeniable zest for life. I attended a Valentine’s Day benefit dinner in 2009 at which Katelyn spoke. Before she took the mic, those of us in attendance were apprised of Katelyn’s situation and the struggles she had been through. It was gut wrenching and sobering to the point I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear any more. And then Katelyn started to amaze me. She had not an ounce of self pity. Not a speck of anger at the hand life had dealt her. Not even a fleeting thought of giving up despite her fragile physical condition. Quite the opposite – her amazing sense of humor and her charming old soul view of life and gritty determination instantly endeared me to Katelyn and brought tears to my eyes. Before the end of Katelyn’s talk I had decided that I wanted to do something to for St. Jude on Katelyn’s behalf.
St. Jude Children’s Hospital could quite possibly be the only facility in the world that Katelyn and her family could have turned to for help and survival. The Mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as taken from their website, is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay. Katelyn is on a mission to raise 3 million dollars for St. Jude and its patients so that this mission can continue to be a reality for children with severe life threatening illness and no where else to turn.
I am beginning a campaign to raise awareness and funds to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. My campaign is supported by ESA Minnesota and I am participating on behalf of Katelyn. The campaign will be ongoing and fluid, but my efforts in 2010 will be focused on meeting Katelyn at the finish line of the Memphis Marathon in December. Katelyn will be participating in the 5k event, an unbelievable goal for her, and I will be running the marathon. We will join at the finish line to celebrate Katelyn’s accomplishment and to add my portion of fund raising to her goal of 3 million dollars.
I will be competing in a number of events throughout the year in different areas of the country leading up to the Memphis marathon. My campaign will be coined “Where’s Chris Scotch” and I invite you to check in from time to time to see where I am competing and to get an update on my fund raising efforts. In addition I will be getting involved at the local level in Minneapolis/St. Paul with St. Jude events to create awareness for St. Jude.
Thank you for your support,