Pomona College Magazine

Last summer, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Sally James (a Seattle writer) for the alumni magazine of Pomona College.  I spent my freshman and sophomore years as a Sagehen, and there are days when I seriously regret transferring to another college. When we took David to Pomona for a visit, I looked at it from a completely different perspective – and wished I had stayed on to major in English or journalism.

After “Because of Katie” was published, I contacted the magazine’s editor, Mark Kendall, to let him know that I had written a book. The magazine has a page devoted to alumni publications, and I hoped my book would be included there. Mark went beyond that, to ask me not only about the book, but also about our journey with Katie, and what I have been doing since that time. He kindly decided to tell the story in an article in the alumni section, rather than in a paragraph on the “book*marks” page.  The result arrived in my mailbox yesterday. You can read it here:

http://magazine.pomona.edu/2012/fall/sewing-comfort/

(Photo by Larry Steagall/Kitsap Sun)

I’m deeply grateful to Pomona College Magazine and Sally James for telling the story of Katie’s Comforters Guild with kindness, sensitivity and respect. I hope that it will be a blessing to my fellow alumni.

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Abundance, Not Perfection

The past week has been filled with joy, good news and answered prayer.

That’s a reason to stop and give thanks – to just STOP, right there, and give thanks to Love for these blessings.

My book reading at Eagle Harbor Book Company resulted in raised awareness and support for childhood cancer research. I have specific, personal evidence of that, and it is a rich blessing to me to know that the message which I feel called to share is being heard.

And – HEY! I must say – they sold out of “Because of Katie,” and had to order more. It out-sold J.K. Rowling’s new book – can I hear a “woot-woot!” just for that fact?

Karen and Dr. Michael Jensen discussing childhood cancer research at Eagle Harbor Book Co. (photo credit: http://www.eagleharborbooks.com)

After that, I spent days writing and working on other projects. On Friday, it was time for the third annual Ben Towne Foundation BENefit. Gregg and I have been fortunate to have attended this event every year, and to have seen this dream grow BIG. We love Carin, Jeff and Ryan Towne, and wish we had known Ben. We met the Townes because Ben was treated in the same place by the same staff who treated Katie, at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Fortunately, one of those people thought we should meet – and we did. The resulting friendship is indeed a gift from our children.

Gregg dislikes re-entering the world of pediatric cancer, and this is the only benefit which I can persuade him to attend nowadays. He goes gladly because he wholeheartedly supports what the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research is doing, as well as the family and the Foundation that brought that center into being. I can’t think of ANYone who could persuade Gregg to be in a video other than the Townes.

benefit 2011 Feature Video from ben towne foundation on Vimeo.

It would be difficult to describe the relief – the weeping, grateful relief – which I felt on Friday evening when I heard  Dr. Jensen announce from the stage that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has just approved clinical trials for the new T-cell therapy he has designed. That application, submitted by the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, is what I have been dreaming of for at least five years: therapy which does no harm, only good – and rapidly. Therapy which can help adults, as well as children. Therapy which can be applied to a variety of different cancers, without causing secondary cancer. It is therapy that I wish had been available in time to save my own daughter’s life, and the lives of our friends’ children.

In the midst of these blessings is the knowledge that none of it changes the outcome for us…Katie is dead, as is Ben, Hannah, Jenny, Henry, Jessica and Hayden, and so many others…they are not with their parents, where we feel they belong. They should be here, growing up, being loved and nurtured by their families. But they are not. They are somewhere else. In my belief, they are in the next phase of life, going forward, yet awaiting our arrival and reunion. I believe we will see one another again. I believe that Katie’s life work is large, full, and that she did it with beauty, dignity, courage and completeness, as far as her part goes. I only wish it had been a longer life, without the suffering brought on by cancer.

I will never feel that it was worth what has happened since – no matter how much good, no matter the progress and the lives yet to be saved – I will never feel that my daughter’s life should have ended at 12 and a half years. That will never, ever be “okay” with me. If someone wants to tell me that God had a plan and that Katie’s death was part of it, so that I would become more faithful, less selfish, an advocate for cancer research, or do any number of “good works,” I will want to punch that person on the nose. Period. So please, do not try to tell me that it was a “good” thing that this happened. It wasn’t, and it never will be.

Having written that, it is fascinating that in the class I’m taking right now – RIGHT NOW – the focus is on prayers that are not answered the way we wish they were. The lesson I’m studying (Beth Moore’s “Believing God”) is dealing with specific prayers for healing that are answered with recovery, and those that are answered without it – even prayers that are followed by death, rather than healing. I’m so glad that someone is willing to face the facts and discuss them! The worst thing is to brush off questions which don’t presently have answers. Wrestle if you wish, but do not deny or ignore!

Life can be filled with goodness, yet still be imperfect, and that is what my life is like. I have to work continually to accept what has been denied, and to embrace, with love and gratitude, what has been given.

A cure for cancer is closer – hope is rising – progress is in the works. My daughter, who should be applying to colleges this fall, does not live here on earth with her family; I can’t see her until I die. These are facts of my life. It is a life is filled with abundant blessings – and it contains horrific wounds. It is not perfect – it is human. And it is a gift.

Eagle Harbor Books & “Because of Katie”

“Because of Katie”

Eagle Harbor Book Company (located at 157 Winslow Way East on Bainbridge Island, WA; telephone number 206.842.5332) is hosting an event which includes my book, “Because of Katie” on Sunday, September 23 at 3:00 in the afternoon.

I hope you’ll join us!

The event will last for an hour, during which time I will read from my book (and sign a copy for you, if you’d like one). I’ll also show a brief video from the Ben Towne Foundation about Dr. Michael Jensen (a Bainbridge Islander) and his work as the Director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Hospital. We’ll hear about the exciting research he is doing with the immune-system, harnessing its power to kill cancer cells!

We’ll also have a display showing and telling a bit about Katie’s Comforters Guild at Seattle Children’s Hospital, the guild which I founded after Katie passed away – which was inspired by her attachment to her own home-made quilt.

This is in honor of the fact that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – did you know that? The President of the United States even signed a proclamation to that effect (if you’re interested, you can read more from Curesearch here).

Thank you, Eagle Harbor Books for providing a community space in which to spotlight this important issue!