The first day of school

Catie’s Team,

         Five years ago today, we sent the message below letting all of you know that Catie’s battle with cancer had taken a dramatic turn with the reappearance of her tumor.  What a journey those last sixty-one days with her would become, and what a wonderful journey it has been since that time.  Two days after that message, we celebrated Thanksgiving, and we do so again this week and will have a difficult time counting the myriad blessings in our lives.  In the celebration of Catie’s and all Funeral masses, there is a line that reads, “for those whose lives we celebrate, life is not ended, but changed”, and that statement best summarizes not only what the last five years have been for us, but where we are now. 

      I am blessed to be married to my best friend and am more in love with Christine today than ever before.  The Fab 5 are all growing and thriving.  Maggie is a Sophomore in High School and based on her academic excellence has begun receiving offers from colleges.  Max has grown into a young man and unless I wear platform shoes, the reality is that he is now taller than me.  He and Mia both succeeded in making their respective Basketball teams and in addition to Molly playing this year for the first time, our schedule is slightly packed.  M.E., who was only two when we sent this message is now as old as Catie was when we sent it and has outgrown all of Catie’s clothes.  Putting them away for the last time was as you can imagine, very touching.  In all, the kids are doing great, they are thriving and your thoughts and prayers for them continue to bear fruit.       

      Our relationship with St. Jude continues to grow and we look to new and different ways to honor Catie’s Wish through our involvement is all aspects of the Hospital that fought alongside her.  We assist staff, patients, and families with end of life and bereavement issues as well as continue to support efforts to honor Catie’s mission to “eradicate pediatric cancer through prayer and research.  We continue to witness and share in all aspects of so many lives.  We celebrated three weddings this summer and also attended three funerals and see the cycle and circle of life from a unique perspective. 

      Catie continues to be ever-present in our lives.  Yesterday as Christine was reading her paper, which is a Sunday ritual, Catiebug crawled over page after page while at the same time, she flitted around me as I was cooking something in the kitchen, and also played alongside M.E. and Molly and helped Max with his homework.  The reality is, she is with us as much as we are open to her presence.

Maggie and Max in their High School band

Please know of our thoughts and prayers for you this Thanksgiving.  May your blessings be too numerous to count and know that we count you as one of ours.  God is good, all the time.

 Christine, Kevin, Maggie, Max, Mia, Molly, M.E., and always Catie and Gianna




Good evening prayer warriors,

      The O’Brien family is all in Memphis, soon to be joined by a host of Closkeys to share Thanksgiving. The fab 5 and I arrived right on time this morning after two early morning flights and the 8 of us had a small reunion in the hospital before Catie’s MRI. We sent the three youngest back for a nap with Mom-Mom and Da at the Marriott while Catie was coming out of recovery from her sedation. Maggie, Max, Catie, Christine and I then wheeled Catie around the hospital in her wheelchair while we awaited the results. The wheelchair is a new addition to Catie’s day as she has developed a drop foot that prevents her from being able to walk. The doctors surmise that this is a temporary condition resulting from the chemotherapy. How I wish now that they were correct in this initial diagnosis.

      In reality, these new symptoms of neuropathy and pain in Catie’s hip, legs, and feet are a result of her tumor growing back. Despite the massive dose of radiation and the aggressive chemotherapy, it is back. Keeping with Catie’s track record of being a statistical anomaly, there have been 4 cases in the last 15 years of a tumor re-growing during a treatment plan this aggressive. There are few options left to her and us at this point. We could subject her to another surgery to remove the tumor again and perhaps prolong her life by a few months, but the risk of a second surgery, one that has no chance of being curative, is very high. There are other chemotherapy regimens that could slow the spread and growth of the tumor, and again might gain us a little time. However from a medical point of view, her care is now palliative, not curative. Medically speaking, the focus now changes to doing whatever we can to keep her comfortable and out of pain and make the time we have left with her as full and rich as we can.

      Breaking the news to Catie was the most difficult moment I have ever had as a father. After crying for a moment and burying her face in my shirt, she looked up at me and said, “why daddy?” I hope and pray that the answer I gave her provided her with some comfort. I do know that within an hour of receiving the news and some medication that will hopefully keep the tissue surrounding the tumor from swelling, that beautiful, darling, innocent little girl was eating, playing with her sisters, and giggling. Thank you Catie for teaching me yet another lesson. Celebrate and live life while you can, it is too fragile and precious to waste.

       I could keep writing this for hours and never tire of sharing what a wonderful, special little girl Catie is. Her battle with this tumor has taken its toll on her physically, and in some ways, the tumor got the best of her. But it never broke her spirit, it never took away her ability to gift any person that came in contact with her from coming away from the experience better for having spent time with her. We will continue to share our thoughts and prayers and Catie’s journey with you. For now, we want to offer you a prayer of Thanksgiving for the last 6 months that we have had with Catie and through her battle, with all of you. As each of you sit and share a meal with those you love, take the opportunity to forge new bonds and repair those that need mending. The people in our lives are gifts from a loving Father, and they do not come with gift receipts, we need to keep them. The key is to find a reason to thank God for each one of those gifts.

  Christine, Kevin, Maggie, Max, Catie, Mia, Molly, and M.E.

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One Response to “Thanksgiving”

  1. Marthe Terry says:

    As always, my love and prayers are with you all. What a glorious witness you all are to God’s love and mercy. Whether it happens in Rome or not, Catie will always be our special saint. Love and God’s blessings this Advent and Christmas season, Marthe