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katie+andrew-6Over the past 18 months, I’ve had 2 amazing clients with stage 4 cancer. There is no stage 5.

I’ve watched myself cheer them on when they get good scans and I’ve watched myself fade into the background when the news is bad. I don’t want them to die. I don’t want to have a client who died. And I have felt myself “work” to treat them like everyone else.

Yesterday was one of their birthdays. Katie Campbell turned 33 and while we don’t know if any 33 year old will turn 34 or 35 or 36, most of them have better chances than Katie.

I realized when Katie’s cancer news was good, I was happy to connect and cheer her on but when the news wasn’t so good, I kept forgetting to get back to her. I’d tell myself it was because I was busy, but the truth is, I was pushing Katie away because I didn’t want to love her anymore. I didn’t want to get to know her smile. I liked her as a disembodied voice on the end of the phone or words on a page that are supposed to be out of my orbit in 3 months anyway.

Recently, though, with some support from my friends, Difference Press authors Rachael Maddox and Jenn McRobbie who know a thing or 2 more than me about cancer and trauma, I spent a day with Katie working on her book and kickstarter campaign.

When I asked her why she wanted to do the kickstarter campaign, what she wanted the money for, what the goal was… I put on the table getting a PR person to get her on national media before she dies and making her the next “Randy Pausch” (The Last Lecture Guy) – I was making it all about her.

But she said no… “I don’t want this to be about me… I want to take the money and create a scholarship to help other young cancer patients make one of their dreams come true. I want to fund their book project, or a cooking class in France, or a rock climbing trip while they are still well enough to do it. I want to fund courageous adventures for young people with cancer.”

Katie’s goal is to create a wish-granting service for 18-39-year-old cancer patients — sort of a Crazy, Sexy, Cancer meets the Make a Wish Foundation.

And you know what? Katie is going to get to her $50K goal and she is going to grant these wishes.

Getting to know her better is going to make it 1,000 times harder to say goodbye to her when the time comes – which I still hope is a long, long, long time from now. We ate pumpkin seeds and drank tea together. We laughed. Wrote copy. Made lists. And we talked about what it’s like to live when you know your time is short… We talked about her medical bills and treatments she wants but can’t afford. We talked about her birthday plans and how she wanted to celebrate turning 33. Yesterday was her birthday and she did it in style just like she planned – and she also hit 500 backers of her Kickstarter campaign but she still has a ways to go to hit the goal that will allow her to grant those wishes. I have so much more to miss now.

I’m not hiding from it though. I want to love Katie. I want to be a good friend to her right now and I want to miss her when she’s not here. I’m not going to be so afraid of her leaving that I miss the chance to get to know someone who wants to use her last days on the planet creating adventures for other people who share a diagnosis with her.

I’m trying not to hate cancer today. Without cancer, I wouldn’t have met Katie. Her book is amazing but her life is a game changer and I’m glad I get to be a small part of it.

Blank bookcover with clipping pathHere’s a quote from her book that struck me:

“Ultimately, what we all need in life, whether we have cancer or not, is for someone else to say, “I see you.” But we can’t be seen unless we are willing to show who we really are to the world.” – Katie Campbell, The Courage Club

I would love it if you would join me in saying Happy Birthday to Katie with a donation to her Kickstarter and sharing it with your community. The Courage Club is going to show the world the real cure for cancer…. Love.

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