When I think back on my childhood, there were a number of adults who played a major role in my development. My parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and the like. But if I had to pick one person who wasn’t related to me who played the biggest role in shaping the person I am today, it would be, without question, Kathy.
Kathy was my 5th grade teacher, which I know sounds a little random (and I definitely didn’t call her Kathy then and barely can now), but it was a pivotal year for me. 3rd and 4th grade were years where I was tormented every day by my classmates. I was called every name you could imagine, mocked for any and everything and when my mom brought the issue up to my principal, she told my mom that I brought it on myself (which, what?). The people who were supposed to protect me from bullying didn’t and it made it very hard for me to trust my teachers. Not to mention, on my last 4th grade report card I got a C+ in math, out of nowhere, and when my mom asked about it, my teacher said that she gave it to me “because Katie needed to be taken down a peg.” For real.
So in 5th grade, my mom moved me to a different school and I’m not sure if it was luck of the draw (I suspect not since my mom taught at both my new and old schools), but Kathy was my teacher. On the first day of 5th grade, a classmate who had transferred schools with me started teasing me on the playground and within a matter of moments, Kathy shut it down. For the first time in years, I felt like I had a teacher who had my best interests in mind.
And that year was one of the very best. She fostered in me a love of learning that I had lost. She helped me learn what it was to take responsibility for my mistakes instead of hiding from them. I credit a lot of my work ethic and eventual academic success to her, but more importantly, she gave me self-confidence in a time where others had stolen it away, she gave me trust in adults when I had lost it long before. I came out of 5th grade a different person than I started.
Her influence didn’t end there because Kathy and my mother have been good friends for years and she continued to be in my life long after that year. She has been to birthday parties and holidays, she insisted upon doing the calligraphy for our wedding invitations (and it was amazing!) and threw a baby shower for Eli that was incredible. She came to my 30th birthday party last year, which besides her was exclusively family. Because honestly, she feels like family.
And now she has cancer. Last week she had major surgery for an invasive abdominal cancer and had to have a second procedure yesterday for a complication that arose. It surprised me not even a little bit to learn that she ripped out her breathing tube yesterday (she’s pretty feisty) and has kept her doctors very much on their toes. She’ll be starting chemotherapy soon and has a long road of healing and poking and prodding ahead of her.
There is no donation fund here, I’m not looking for money or food or anything that will cost you money, but I can’t lose her. And so I’m sharing Kathy with you. I’m hoping that if all of you take a bit of our story with you and love her a little bit that maybe think about her or add her to your prayer lists or your thoughts, that things will start to make a turn for the better for her.
I’m not someone who tosses the world love around easily and the other day I was talking to my husband and without even thinking I blurted out, “she has to get better, I love her.” And truly, I mean it. I love this woman as if she was my own family. I am who I am, so much, because of her and to be honest, I’m scared right now about what she is facing. I’m not ready to imagine a world without Kathy and if you knew her, you would understand. She makes this world a brighter place every single day.
So as a not overly religious person, I’m asking for whatever you can give. If prayers are your thing, please offer some for Kathy and her husband Jim. If thoughts are more your speed, please send good thoughts her way. And if neither of those suit you, please tell someone in your life how much you love them and how much they mean to you. I know I’ll be doing that the next time I see Kathy because right now I hate that I’ve never done it before.
If you want to keep up with her journey, Kathy has a caringbridge page here.