My daughter-in-law Katie died January 9 of this year of adrenocortical carcinoma. She was 26, and had been married to my son Josh for just over 15 months. From the time of her diagnosis, she lived another seven months. Katie had lots of friends and family that loved her and miss her now, and they all had a unique and important view of her life, but this is my remembrance. There will 6 or 7 installments, all based on a number of days: how long I knew her, how long she was married to Josh, how long we knew she had cancer, for example – each to try and remember things about the unexpectedly short time that our lives intersected. Each part will concern a progressively longer number of days.
Part 1: 1 Day
January 9, 2014. One terrible day. We had known it was coming for a while, and it seemed to be comfortingly distant – just over the horizon. It was, we knew, an horizon that was shortening rapidly. The previous few weeks had included indicators that forced us to see the unavoidable story that was being written between the lines. Then “the day” arrived. We had forestalled it in our minds for many months; now, it imposed itself on us. No further mental escape tricks were available.
She had been soldiering along and doing fairly well. Easy for me to say – Katie had been diagnosed with adrenocortical carcinoma in May of 2013, and the disease had taken its toll. We only saw what the last nine months of the disease did; we suspect she had it for as long as a couple of years – before she even met Josh. From the healthy, vibrant young women I met in the summer of 2012, she had been reduced, in a physical way, to a gaunt shadow of her former self. Much of her muscle mass had been eaten away by the cancer, and the largest tumor (there were, as Josh would tell me later, many) was prominent in her abdomen, just below her rib cage. It was the size of a football.
Katie had been in the hospital for about a week, and had returned home the day before. She was pretty weak, but we thought she would be out of the woods for a little while. On January 8, I went to work expecting to see her at the end of the day; lying in bed to try and get relief from the pain she was experiencing, mustering her beautiful smile to disguise how she really felt. Her response to the “how are you feeling” question was invariably “pretty good”, even when she was obviously in pain.
I got a call at midday from my audibly distressed daughter saying that Josh had to call the ambulance to take Katie back to the emergency room, as she was experiencing some disturbing heart issues. The diagnosis was not good; her vital organs were failing, and she had “hours to days” to live. It was hours. By 1:13 the next morning, she was gone. Read More