Together in Memphis

Dear Friends and prayer warriors,

It is amazing how simple life can be if we focus on someone else. While we are “Together in Memphis”, (early Elvis, before he gained 100 pounds), and focusing on Catie, it is as if the rest of the world blurs out of focus. I followed her around from one appointment to another and listened as she checked in at each of the appointments with her name and her patient I.D. number and then sat with her as she endured yet another poke or prod or series of questions, or high dose radiation. The daily schedule, (very regimented) changed 11 times this day alone. Tomorrow’s schedule has only 2 appointments on it currently, if it stays that way, we should have a terrific day. Catie feels much better today now that she is on the anti-nausea medication, she is sleeping soundly (as is M.E.), and we are thankful. If we stay ahead of the curve with the medication, she should be able to feel ok for a little while until the radiation begins to have a cumulative effect, but we have 2 treatments of the 30 out of the way….baby steps.

The four of us currently live in a bubble in this bustling city. Whether at St Jude’s or at the Target House, we are surrounded by other families and other children fighting the battle of their lives, and the constant chatter in the hallways is not about the mundane of playdates, soccer practice, “what are your plans for the summer” or “what movie are you going to see”, but about “what cycle of chemo is he on”, “are you on the donor list for a transplant”, “what are her chances”. In this collection of the sickest of the sick kids who sought treatment at one of the premier facilities in the world, in many ways, Catie is still unique. Her diagnosis alone sets her apart from any other kid that has gone before her at St Jude’s. The second thing that sets her apart is that she “appears” to be perfectly healthy. We see kids each day here who have already lost parts of their bodies, their minds, their mobility, and their independence. New doctors run her through a battery of tests each day because it makes no sense to them that she did not lose function based on the location, size, and type of tumor. We of course know that the prayers you all sent to heaven prior to her surgery guided the hands of Dr Iantosca and brought us the first miracle of this adventure; it WILL NOT be the last. The third differentiator for Catie is…..Catie. Her mother must have done a wonderful raising her because she is amazing. I’m not done yet! I can make here better, faster, stronger.  She can be the first bionic girl. She takes so much of this in stride, it is unbelievable, and yet when she hits the breaking point, it is a quick crash. The ipod comes to the rescue it plays movies too. She has 7 movies on her ipod and she uses them to an escape. She even recovers well from the crashes. One of the best things she has going for her is that she may be the most stubborn kid I have ever met. Shocking, considering that her mother and I are so laid back, easily moved from our positions, and never stubborn! To say that any kid is well suited for such an ordeal is crazy, but she is unique. And still the smile goes on!

Your generosity continues to amaze and humble us. The simplest cards, pictures drawn on construction paper, or messages left on the machine at Target House are the little boosts that get her over the hump each day. A smile from M.E., or one of the little kids in treatment lights her up. She and I, while waiting for one of the appointments today found “I loved her first” on her i-pod, put one of the headphones on one of her ears and one on one of mine and we held each other, danced in the waiting room, cried a bit, and laughed. I will hold the memory forever, and I thank God and all of you for your prayers to this point because she is still here. The reality is that she could be gone already. Every day is a gift, what we choose to do with it is our legacy, this little girl’s legacy is assured because of how she is living her life this summer, and I am honored and blessed to be her dad.

Last bit of news for the night…. There is a new email address above, (in addition to the extra ones we add each night as people ask to be included on the email updates). It is, and it is the email for the new “laptop in Memphis” (later Elvis, actually a club he used to frequent). Emails will be coming to you from that account in the future, and it will be the primary for the webpage on caringbridge. The Catie Fund is progressing nicely, thank you all for your prayerful donations. The fab 5 are doing well at home, and Colleen, Taylor, and Megan are keeping things running smoothly.

Kevin is very serious tonight. Usually I have him ROTF (rolling on the floor) by now, but perhaps today offered too much reality. I can understand it. I spoke at length tonight with Kevin’s brother Jim Tortorici. Jim is also Catie’s Godfather. Jim asked about the human side of this. The human side is tough. Today I learned how to flush Catie’s line. Yuck! I don’t mind diapers that may explain the six kids but needles no thank you. Again I ask myself if not me then who? If I don’t do this what will happen to Catie? Those are questions that can remain unanswered because I will stay here and together with all of your support we will fight this for and with Catie. Things will go from good to not so good and then back to good.

I believe that God is using this as God uses all things for good. Why? How? I may have very simple faith. I believe it just because I believe in love. I’ve come to understand this love first as a child as I felt comfort from my parents and discipline, punishment and forgiveness.  I then continued to understand this love as a young teenager as I longed for the man of my dreams to love and be loved by. (God you could have made this easier for me if you told me in fifth grade that Kevin O’Brien was that man.) Now as a parent as I watch this beautiful child that I would do anything for and yet I hand her over again and again to receive treatment, some that hurts and others that seem painless now but who knows how painless over the long run. This child then comes back to me and offers me comfort. She gently wipes the tears out of my eyes and smiles that Catie smile and says Mom don’t worry everything will be ok. I believe her. I believe in love. I believe in faith and in God. Life without those beliefs for me is not livable. I want to live so that I can have one more day to explain to someone why? Because love real love makes anything possible and that is what God’s offers to each of us every day and all we have to say is YES.

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