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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Katie Gerstenberger Endowment at Seattle Children's Hospital

Dear Friends,

This blog was created to keep you up to date on what is going on over at the Katie Gerstenberger Endowment for Cancer Research (solid tumors) at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Katie was a vibrant, active, intelligent, kind, funny sparkly girl of 11 when she was diagnosed with a huge tumor in her abdomen. She had no symptoms until about 3 weeks before her diagnosis, when she began to exhibit the symptoms of a virus. After 3 weeks of clinic visits and tests, the horrendous news came that she was in grave danger of losing her life, and had to be admitted to the hospital immediately. Experts were consulted in various places around the world to diagnose her specific type of tumor, and to determine the best course of treatment for it.

We spent the next 5 months supporting Katie as she endured 5 rounds of toxic chemotherapy, as well as an 18-hour surgery to remove the tumor (and a kidney, adrenal gland, inferior vena cava and a lobe of her liver). It's a miracle that she survived this surgery, and she spent 6 weeks in the hospital, recovering from it. She then was allowed to go home to recuperate further, and began to take a pill-form of "maintenance" chemotherapy. By early summer, she was strong enough to go to the American Cancer Society's Camp Goodtimes West (on Vashon Island) for a week with her brother, David.

Sadly, a couple of weeks after camp, Katie began to suffer from severe pain. We took her to the clinic, and then to the hospital for a CT scan, & upon reviewing it, her doctor discovered another large tumor - but this one was inoperable. We took Katie home to begin hospice care.

The one bright spot during this time was that Katie's dream of being a bridesmaid came true. She was the maid of honor for her cousin Andrea's wedding to Mike Cunningham. Katie LOVED being their maid of honor. We treasure those memories.

We (Katie's family) created this endowment in her honor, and we asked Katie what she wanted the funds to be used for. Her answer was that she wanted the endowment to support research to find a cure for solid tumors such as the one she had, which was adrenocortical carcinoma. She knew that the endowment was started before she passed away. The principal of the endowment is preserved, and the income is collected and used to fund research.

When Katie passed away, we asked people to donate to her endowment instead of sending flowers to us. The did this very generously, and many people have continued to support the endowment. It was up to nearly $80,000.00 last summer, before the stock market took a tumble. It is now near $66,000.00, and Dr. Julie Park (Katie's oncologist) is the one who advises us on where the income can best be used to carry out Katie's wishes.

If you would like to know more about the Katie Gerstenberger Endowment for Cancer Research, please leave a comment here. If you would like to donate to Seattle Children's Hospital in Katie's memory, please click HERE.