Sometimes life throws a challenge your way that literally stops you in your tracks and forces you to re-evaluate your sense of self and your purpose; sometimes the challenge ends up being the best thing that has ever happened to you.
What if that challenge happens to be cancer and what if the cancer you fought so hard to beat snuck back up on you and ravished your body just when you thought you had it beat? Well, if your name happens to be Kathleen O’Keefe then you grab the cancer by the scruff of the neck and give a good shake to bring it back to its senses and remind it that you are the last person on Earth it should be messing with. I’m not sure however, if that makes her extraordinary or if it just makes her yet another walking, talking example of what it means to embrace the will to survive that is ‘the human spirit’.
Lucky for us she also happens to be a talented writer and outside of the fact that I personally can’t wait to get my hands on that book once it comes out, her courage and her direct approach to ‘Surviving Cancerland’ left me with a unique opportunity to reflect on just how amazing humans truly are. Not that I am not already completely convinced that human beings can accomplish anything but it is always uplifting to run into other people who also believe the same thing; more so when they prove it to be true.
I have to wonder; does she realize how much of an inspiration her story and her work are? After speaking with her for almost 2hrs I think maybe it crosses her mind about as often as the possibility of the cancer coming back does, which is to say not too often. I know she wants to help others, and I am absolutely positive that the potential of her survival assisting and inspiring others who are afflicted to prevail is the driving force behind her work but I am equally positive she does not in any way consider herself to be a hero. I think she is but not so much because she made it through the hell that was her dive into disease but rather because of the grace with which she came back up to the surface for air, breathing life into those she met along the way.
It’s a bit of a scary tale, and if you linger too long on the ‘what went wrong’ aspects of her life you might just find yourself doubting the very system that is set up to care for our physical wellbeing. Kathleen, thankfully, is not the type of woman to let you do that so by the time you are done exploring the ins and outs of one of the world’s most deadliest diseases with her as your guide, you will believe that ANYTHING is possible; she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Life throws wrenches in our plans all the time, and it is heartening to know that there are people out there like Kathleen who snatch the wrench out of the air and use it as a tool to build a new life full of hope.
Jean Victoria Norloch
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