The first thing I (Jill) noticed about Katie during my interview were her remarkably beautiful eyes. They were the kind that render onlookers speechless, so I quickly looked down at the paper before me and began asking questions.
When asked what she loves most, Katie easily replied dance. She spends much of her time practicing jazz, ballet, and lyrical routines with her older sister, Heather, but her passion is tap. Pride sparkled in Katie’s eyes as her mom told me about the tap scholarship she had recently won.
After dance, Katie’s priority is spending time with her family. Katie knows first hand that togetherness is an important ingredient to family life. Nothing could have driven this lesson home more than the recent loss of her two beloved sisters, Anna and Nicole. Anna tragically died in a motor vehicle accident at age 23, and months later, her sister Nicole lost her life-long battle against CF at age 13.
With Anna, Katie lost a big sister that loved to dote on her with secret trips to the mall or nail salon. With Nicole, Katie lost her best friend. Together, Katie and Nicole made silly videos, giggled about nothing, and fought CF side by side. From airway clearance treatments to medications to PICC lines to feeding tubes to hospitalizations—CF was simply another thing the girls shared amidst playing, learning, caring, forgiving, laughing, hugging, helping, dancing, and healing.
While Katie politely answered my inquiries about adversity and loss, it was clear she had not been crippled by the pain and suffering she has known. In awe, I chanced one last look into her eyes and caught a glimpse of steely determination and resilience. Like a willow that bends in a storm, Katie has withstood the obstacles placed in her path without breaking. In doing so, she teaches those around her what it takes to get up off the ground when life knocks us down: tenacity, grit, and a willingness to be flexible.