Dear Katie, Love Vonna

Dear Katie,

Remember when I ran the Philly marathon a few years ago? Quick refresher: it was not my best day. To be honest, I don’t even remember much about it. One thing that does stick out is that Justin Bieber was on my playlist (yikes). Another is you and all of our friends cheering for me at multiple spots throughout the race. In fact, I have two vivid memories of you running at different points – with me at the beginning of the race so I could blow my nose, and towards me at the very end of it so you could encourage me to finish. I am 100% certain that you guys being there that day is what motivated me to finish that race.

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Fast forward to now, 2015. Now you are the one running a marathon, and we are the ones running behind you. In the past year, you have learned a lot about yourself and your family and friends. I know this because of what you’ve told me and written on your blog. Now I want to tell you what I have learned from you over the past 12 months. I will take the liberty here of assuming that those who know you best and/or have been following your story will agree with me.

First, you have taught me what strength is. Knowing you for 30 years (yikes x2!), I already knew that you were a strong person.But during this past year, you have shown us all what strength really is. It is not finishing a running race that is not going well. Strength is finding the ability to share some of the deepest difficulties of living with cancer with the world while still maintaining a smile and sense of humor through it all. This, of course, doesn’t mean that there aren’t some days when you just don’t feel like talking or laughing. That is understood. What it does mean is that when you’re weak or sore or sick or scared, you face those feelings and come out ready to fight again with a picture or blog post or video and a new energy that reminds us all what true strength is. You have completed this up-and-down cycle gracefully many times over the past 12 months – probably more times than you have shared with others (after all, what kind of a middle name would Grace be if you didn’t have it!). Doing so requires a type of strength that redefines the word and a personality trait that is one in a million. You have both of these things. Thank you for sharing them with all of us. It has helped a lot of people who have been praying for you and pulling for you over the past year.

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Speaking of all of those people, you have also taught me (and them) how important a positive attitude is in the face of adversity. I hope you understand how many people you inspire every day. Your reach far surpasses your immediate family and friends. Your blog has over 1,000 followers. Your Facebook and Instagram posts routinely have hundreds of “likes.” As far as social media is concerned, that is, like, Bieber territory (yes, that was a second JB reference in this post. I am just as ashamed as you are). Over the past year I have heard from family friends with cancer about how much strength and hope your story has given them in their own fight. I have heard from friends and friends of friends how your story has given them a truer sense of understanding and compassion. I have heard from people I don’t even know who read your blog and pray for you every day even though they’ve never met you. All of this is a testament to the way you have approached your situation. You have amazingly been able to keep a positive attitude throughout this entire thing. Because you have let us all take part in the rollercoaster ride that you have been on, you have become a true role model, not just for others with cancer, but for anyone who is trying to smile in the face of whatever adversity they are facing. This fact is evident in the amount of people who have found comfort in your attitude and mindset. It is just one reason why Cycle for Survival selected you to give the opening speech at the event back in March. Your positivity is contagious and shines like a light for the immense amount of people who think about you every day (as if you didn’t have enough to do for yourself over that time!). Thank you for this inspiration.

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Finally, you have taught me what gratitude is. Not one thing that anyone has done for you over the past year has gone unnoticed or unappreciated by you. Amid all that you have had to go through, you were concerned with thanking people for their donations to Cycle or the notes and packages that they have sent you and Kyle. This sense of gratitude that you have displayed has made me re-examine the people and things in my own life with a renewed sense of thanks. Most importantly, it has made me thankful for having you as a best friend. I would like to say that I would handle this situation as well as you have, but I would be lying. Your strength, positivity, and gratitude throughout these past 12 months have been and continue to be admirable. We are all so lucky to call you a daughter, sister (-in-law), aunt, niece, fiancée, and friend.

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Throughout this past year, I know what has motivated you most to regain your health: Kyle, your mom and dad, brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews, extended family, friends, little Winnie, and of course, yourself. But you are not only fighting for yourself and for all of us. You are helping everyone who has ever been in your shoes and anyone who will find themselves or a loved one there in the future. I hope knowing all of this inspires you to keep it up. When it’s all said and done, if your marathon goes anything like mine did, you will reach the finish line by means of your own strength and willpower (and that of the people that love you), wonder what the heck just happened, recover, and realize that you are an even stronger person than you were when it started. And when you get there, we will all be there celebrating you.

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I love you!

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Vonna

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6 thoughts on “Dear Katie, Love Vonna

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