Katherine is a OneVillage team member, daughter, sister, and lover of plants. After watching her sister go through brain cancer at a young age, Katherine has been an advocate for children's cancer awareness. Now, she's excited to help the cancer community with her role at OneVillage!
How was your loved one's cancer diagnosis discovered?
When my younger sister, Ellie, was in first grade, she had a seizure in school. After an initial scan, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. When the seizures and major headaches continued to worsen throughout the month, she went in for additional scans that found a brain tumor had grown rapidly.
After two emergency brain surgeries, Ellie was diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer and quickly went into both radiation and chemotherapy treatment.
What is the biggest piece of advice that you have for supporters of newly diagnosed patients?
Give yourself some slack. I struggled a lot with trying to be strong for Ellie and my parents, and to me that meant showing no emotion at all. Not allowing myself to feel those feelings caused more harm than good - you have to take care of yourself before you take care of anyone else.
As a sibling of someone who was sick, especially as a young person, it was difficult to find people I could talk to about all those complicated feelings. It may seem hard at the time, but finding a community of people that can understand will make such a difference in your mental health. At least, it did for me.
What is the most important thing you learned from your cancer experience?
You get to choose what your life is about. For me, spending time with people I love comes before anything else, because I know how quickly they can be taken away.
Find what gives your life meaning and go all in - take the last minute vacation, eat the fifth cookie, buy the person behind you in line a coffee. You're far more likely to regret the things you didn't do than the ones you did.
What was the most difficult aspect of organizing your care/community?
I watched my parents go through incredibly difficult decisions and challenges that I didn't have to understand as a kid. Now, I realize how important it was for them to have our friends and family around us like we did. Without the support of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and local community, Ellie's year of sickness would have looked very different.
One of the things I admire about the way my parents organized everything was the communication they kept up with our entire network. Everyone felt they were a part of Ellie's story through my dad's updates, and that meant she felt more supported as well. Creating a centralized place for everyone to find updates about her made incoming requests/questions more manageable.
Are there products, services, experiences or physicians that you couldn't live without? Tell us more!
I was lucky enough to be able to find an organization called Ele's Place, a healing center for grieving children and teens in Michigan. I was able to talk to other people my age about an experience many of our peers wouldn't have for many years to come, and that helped me find comfort.
I know that for Ellie, any sense of normalcy amid the doctors appointments, treatments and pain made the day better. She was only sick for little over a year, but that year was packed with mini-vacations, special experiences like swimming with sea turtles or getting our ears pierced, and family bonding at any moment we could grab.
Cancer and treatment can take over life when it's that harsh, but when you can, find onto 'normal' and hang on tight.
Interested in connecting with Katherine?
I want to be there for anyone going through something as difficult as cancer, so please don't hesitate to reach out. I answer emails quite quickly and love to chat over Instagram DMs! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Instagram: @kat.murph12
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