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May 11, 2007 [ More archived home pages here ]

Katie's Influence


The above image, Feelings At Sundown is also available as a Desktop

Today's song is of my own Garageband creations, Realm Of The Angels, released in 2004.

Recently I wrote about a speech my sister gave at a memorial service at the University of Maryland's School of Nursing for family and friends of young victims of cancer who passed away. She gave me permission to publish her speech below. I do so in the thought it will help.

Fingerprints On The Heart

In the mist of being rushed into emergency surgery I remember the doctor saying, "Oh, and by the way you're pregnant but you probably won't be after the surgery." When I woke up they told me the surgery went well and by the way, the test showed I was still pregnant, but that would probably change in the next day or two.

On July 16, 1991 Katrina Lynn Yeskis, our third daughter was born: a healthy baby girl. No early delivery, no side effects from surgery or the difficult pregnancy. We had been blessed. I was relieved that I would not have to stand on the other side of a hospital bed and watch my small precious daughter struggle to live. I had always marveled at the families who went through such times. Through it all there always seemed to be a love that enfolded them whenever they looked at their child. All these beautiful courageous little bundles of joy needed to do were look at someone and a deep and lasting fingerprint was left on your heart.

Our Katie continued to grow and take on the world. At every place she went, parks ice areas, school within 5 minutes she was bring another kid over and introducing her "New best friend" to me. She quickly left a fingerprint on the heart of anyone she met. Katie continued to grow being our healthy little, soccer player and competitive ice skater.

In sixth grade the family moved from Chicago to Baltimore. By 7th grade she had joined a singing and dancing group at her middle school. She practiced hard, throwing herself completely into her performances as she did with everything she undertook. Her singing teacher was left fingerprints of this energetic smiley kid from the south side of Chicago all over her heart.

Because of her practicing her repeatedly pulled side muscle didn't concern us so much in March. But it continued into April off and on. Then in May our daughter developed a severe bronchitis that got progressively worse over the week. After an x-ray to make sure pneumonia had not set in she was trundled into an ambulance and sent to the University of Maryland Hospital. She was brought directly to the intensive care room with fluid on her lungs and no clear reason why it was there.

Three weeks of chest tubes drains, scans, blood tests and thousands of diagnostic questions finally lead to a diagnosis. Rabdomyosarcoma--Muscle Cancer. A very rare form of cancer was attacking our child. I found myself standing on the other side of a hospital bed watching my precious child struggle to live. We were now one of those families I have often marveled at.

Now one would imagine that the weeks and months that followed were filled with angst and fear. Oh, those feeling were there. But so were the laughter, the love and the bravery. Katie as well as the other children we meet in the clinic and in the hospital seems to have this special gift of adapting to any situation. I remember a small baby who was in the crib next to Katie in intensive care. My husband and I could not help but be drawn to him as he lay there hooked up to tubes and monitors. He had the most beautiful dark eyes and wide ginning smile with the kinkiest hair I had ever seen. He may have been only a few months old but there was already a clear bright personality there that instantly left tiny little fingerprints on our hearts.

As Katie started her Chemotherapy we met many other children at the clinic and in the hospital. One little girl would sit in the hospital hallway and talk to everyone that passed by. Katie and I would walk down to the gift shop dragging her Chemo on her IV-pole and we would stop to talk. One day when I was by myself in the hall our little friend left fingerprints of laughter on my heart when she informed me that Katie was her new best friend.

Katie was blessed with having wonderful nurses and doctors during her illness. They left large fingerprints on her heart and our hearts with the kindness and support they showed her throughout her illness. She left fingerprints on their hearts too. She left it was her duty to break in the new interns and nurses.

She loved giving her history to the new doctors and then politely critiquing them and correcting them. After all she told me if no one gave them any feedback how would they learn? I remember many times when someone was doing a blood draw, a scan or some procedure on her she would be in pain while she reassured the medical person that it wasn't their fault they were doing fine. However if she thought you were not doing something well, you would be told precisely what did not work. Either way the fingerprint was left.

At first Katie did not do well needing a feed tube inserted directly in her stomach and a wheel chair to get around in. Her biggest fear at the beginning was the loss of her long blond hair. We bought her a lovely wig that turned out to be hot and annoying. Her grandmother fixed the problem when she bought Katie a blue floppy hat that soon became her trademark. After a short time Katie became philosophical about her looks and the wheel chair. She said that it was good that people saw her without hair and in a wheel chair. People needed to look past the outside and see the person inside. What a brave fingerprint on our heart.

By August she was progressing well. She continued to recover and in May she was finished with the chemotherapy, back in school minus the wheel chair and feeding tube. We were ecstatic. We had all grown so close during this time and the love she showed for all her family and friends was immense. In July we were set to travel to Alaska to fulfill Katie's Make-A-Wish.

Unfortunately the cancer had other ideas. In late June the cancer was back and spreading rapidly. By October Katie back in wheel chair with constant pain and having tried various even stronger more debilitating chemotherapy was deemed terminal. My husband and I were of course devastated when we were told she was terminal. Katie, however, was Katie. Upon hearing the news she again took charge, telling the doctors "to take my parents out of the room because they can't handle this and I have to talk to you and plan out the rest of my life. What a fingerprint of strength and courage to have in our heart.

Katie and the Doctors planned out a radiation treatment to allow her to be comfortable to travel to Alaska. So in November, we found the four of us Katie her favorite cousin Susan, her loving father and I in Anchorage Alaska. Oh by the way you can push a wheel chair on snow if it is packed well.

What a wonderful trip that was. Katie and Susan were treated like royalty. In many ways going in the off-season gave us an even more magical trip. The 12-hour train ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks as a small intimate ride of 24 Alaskans and the 4 of us. Where the cook in the dining car and the conductor made Katie feel like royalty doting on her every need. There are so many prints left on my heart from that trip that it would take me hours to tell you all of them.

We returned from Alaska and enjoyed having a large family Thanksgiving. On December 5th the day after her other favorite cousins had flown in from Amsterdam to see Katie she passed away at home just as she had planned it. Katie had also planned her wakes, her cremation and where her ashes were to be spread. She had figured out the circulation of water on the planet and had specific places for her ashes to be spread so that she would cover the world. Again fingerprints of strength courage and wisdom beyond her years are left on our hearts.

I am sure that all of you have similar memories of the precious moments that these children have brought into all our lives. For through these brave children though they are here for just a brief moment or many years have changed and enriched all of us by their existence.

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Yes, Katie touched so many people in her short life here with us. My sister received hundreds of cards and letters from people after Katie passed away. One was from a former medical technician that treated Katie during her frequent visits to the hospital. A few months before Katie died, he left that facility and wasn't aware of Katie's ultimate fate. He sent a letter to her when he decided to return to medical school to become a doctor based on a discussion he had had with Katie so many months before. The letter arrived after Katie's funeral service. In that letter he thanked her for helping him see his true path. That was Katie all the way, helping people see inside themselves.

Katie taught me a thing or two as well. I decided to publish my eulogy below to Katie. My daughter read it for me in my absence at Katie's service back in December 2005.

Katie's Eulogy

Of my nieces and nephews, Katie was the relative I used to know the least about. I am saddened to say I didn't know her better for more of her years.

Now I know a lot about Katie. These last two years I heard about her strengths and will to live. I had heard about those traits from her family during that time. I then had a chance to see those characteristics first-hand during my November visit to the Yeskis household. Even though she was already in the terminal phase, I felt her Spirit would never die. Katie had too much determination in her to let the disease dictate her future. Katie was in control all the way through the end. We can all learn from her experience and her example.

That example for me is not that Katie faced death, because we all face that destiny at some point. Instead, Katie demonstrated how to live under the worst conditions of deteriorating health.

Will you be someone that total strangers come to visit for inspiration when they or their young children are diagnosed with a deadly disease? If stricken, will you try new unconfirmed treatments that do not offer a 100% guarantee that you will live, yet do provide new research to take place in any event?

Katie did!

Will you be able to sing on your deathbed? Will you be able to laugh at a family member while you struggle to breathe near the end of your life?

Katie did!

Will you be at peace with yourself, knowing you lived as long as you could? Will you enter the afterlife on your terms?

Katie did!

Katie got to know me too. I feel she knew me to a greater degree than I knew her. That was one of Katie's gift's, to know someone more fully than they knew her.

If you knew Katie, then you knew someone special.

Katie, may you rest in God's grace forever in peace.

Uncle Don

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Chuck Shepherd wrote me to say he has his Many Moons Ago tune online. Chuck first wrote me me back in March to ask permission to use my digital art of the same name with his music. I really like this new tune of his!

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More good news for Mac users.

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All Internet users need this new modem now!

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In reading this article and looking at its picture, I thought of my digital art image, Four Seasons of Equinar 5.

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I finish this message with the following Digital Insight.

Suspended Feelings (Created in April 2001)

The years 2000 and 2001 were very revealing to me. I experienced the resurfacing of old feelings and explored their meanings to my core. Many answers were forthcoming by the Spring of 2001, but some were unresolved, until later that year.

I created this image at the time to represent the fire that burned within, energized by the goals of resolution and understanding. I also understood at the time, I could set aside part of that quest in favor of seeking the answers at a future point.

That strategy worked out well and I eventually received the answers I sought. Using my own words, I quote a portion from that page's narration:

"Emotions come and emotions go. Sometimes you're just in limbo."

Don


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