Dancing in the rain
Fundraisers help Kaitlin's family with expenses while she fights leukemia
Kaitlin Gallagher, 15, has managed to keep a bit of her teen lifestyle going even during an extensive stay at UCSF children's hospital to undergo leukemia treatment.
To share the tales of her medical battle against the disease, she started a blog that begins with a quote by Vivian Greene: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning how to dance in the rain."
"As bad as 'being in the hospital fighting cancer' may sound, I am actually enjoying my stay," Kaitlin wrote May 2 in a post titled "Living in Luxury."
"After 3 room moves, I was given the suite. It is a nice big room that looks more like a hotel room than a hospital room. The wood floors, nice cabinets, and wall murals of the beach make it very comforting. In addition, the many posters, cards, gifts add to the decor and bring home here. The only big no-no is flowers and plants because of the bacteria or fungus they may have."
She began posting April 26 at www.kaitlinsluckymia.blogspot.com, explaining that she was diagnosed with stage 4 leukemia after discovering a lump in the middle of her throat in February. She details the long process of ultrasounds, biopsies and blood work to make the diagnosis.
"On Wednesday the 20th it was confirmed that I had stage four mature B-cell Leukemia and we began chemotherapy the following day. Currently I am still at the children's hospital at UCSF and am responding to the treatment really well! I have completed the 'mini' round 1," she wrote.
During the next month she talked about her treatments -- chemo, spinal taps and pills, pills and more pills. She shares her reactions and talks about her visits from friends and family, posting fun photos along the way. She stopped going to her classes at Amador Valley High, where she is a sophomore, but continues her school work at home or in the hospital.
"The docs, nurses, and other staff are all awesome," she wrote May 2. "Being a 'teaching' hospital, I feel like a patient on Grey's Anatomy. The drs do their rounds in the morning and about 5 of them come into my room and stand around my bed discussing how it's going and next steps."
Her friends set up a booth near Angela Street at the May 4 First Wednesday to raise awareness about Kaitlin's plight.
"It went really well. Our kids in Pleasanton are pretty amazing," said family friend Christine Hoopes, who helped orchestrate the event. "Our booth was loaded with these kids. The boys actually cut their hair -- they were doing this for Kaitlin."
On May 5, Kaitlin reported on a trip home to Pleasanton:
"To my surprise, my friends decorated my front yard with the best welcome home ever. There was a big sign that had been hand painted, 'Welcome home Kait, Love all your Peeps!' And on the lawn must have been 1,000 peeps to welcome me, literally."
She was able to stay home for a couple of weeks, where she was able to go through her Catholic Confirmation ceremony. And she attended her softball team's game as well as a game of her brother's.
"It was freezing at the Sport's Park but the fresh air felt good," she blogged.
Then it was back to UCSF for another round of treatments.
Her latest blog is headed: "A spoon full of Pudding makes the medicine go down..."
"I have never had an issue taking pills, but when they start giving you 10-15 per day and some are not coated and taste awful, it quickly becomes an issue," she wrote. "After gagging several times and trying new 'tricks,' I now take my pills with nothing else, but Chocolate Pudding."
On her blog, Kaitlin also tells about various fundraisers to help her family during this difficult financial time. They include sales of rubber bracelets and a Twisted Silver Jewelry Party.
Rockin' Jump, the new "ultimate trampoline park" at 5875 Arnold Road, Suite 100, in Dublin, is hosting a one-day event from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday, May 30, to help Kaitlin's cause, and Hoopes hopes that everyone in the community will participate to show support. Call ahead to reserve a jumping time slot by the hour. Tickets are $12.
Comments on Kaitlin's blog commend her spirit, and she, in turn, thanks everyone repeatedly for their help.
"My closest circle of friends and my family visit regularly and are the best medicine I could be receiving," she wrote.