You may remember Kat Tiscornia from September of last year when she shared her experience of battling Ewing sarcoma and becoming “Titanium Girl.” Kat, now a sophomore at Mercer Island High School, asked On the Pulse if she could share an important message with those who cared for her at Seattle Children’s. We think you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we did.
Thank you. It’s just two simple words. In some languages it’s just one, gracias or merci for example. I was brought up to say thank you all the time. Thank you to my teachers, my coaches, my bus driver and the store clerk behind the counter. Are these two words really enough though? What if it’s a big thank you? What if the people you want to thank are the reason you are standing here today?
In March 2013 I was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. I was at Seattle Children’s Hospital when I first met my oncologist, Dr. Doug Hawkins. I will never forget that day. He had to deliver the worst news of my life. However, as he told me that I had a cancerous tumor in my leg, his voice was full of compassion, patience and honesty. He was honest about how hard this journey I was about to embark on was going to be. I remember being very scared that day, but I never felt hopeless. He had a plan for me and I trusted him. Thank you, Dr. Hawkins.
In addition to chemotherapy treatments, I needed to have the tumor removed from my upper leg. That’s how I got to meet Dr. Chappie Conrad, or ‘Chappie’ as they call him at the hospital. The first question Dr. Conrad asked me was what I liked to do. After he unsuccessfully tried to guess my sports, he finally asked me to tell him. “Horseback riding, jumping to be more specific,” I said, waiting for him to tell me the worst. However, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Kat after this is over, you and I will ride together.” Each time I saw him he always put his arm around my shoulder and explained in detail his plan for me. He would draw out his plan on the examination table of how he would put my leg back together after he removed the tumor. I trusted him. In June 2013 I had my surgery. One day I passed him in the waiting room in my wheelchair, only a month after my surgery, and he asked me in a joking tone, “Kat, are you riding yet?” Four months following my surgery, I did sit upon my horse for the first time in seven months. Thank you, Dr. Conrad.
Dr. Abby Rosenberg, or Dr. Abby as I liked to call her, was my secondary oncologist. I think of her as a friend. She’s an amazing doctor with a heart of gold. We spent a lot of time together as I was participating in a study for her. There was one time, after my surgery, where I was still in a leg brace and taking yet another round of chemo. I was complaining and told her I didn’t want to do it anymore. Sitting next to me she told me about all the research that had gone into my treatment and why it was so important. She spoke with a kind and gentle tone, comforting me. Dr. Abby does this with all of her patients, comforting us and talking us out of giving up. She has a true gift. Thank you, Dr. Abby.
I spent nine solid months at Seattle Children’s under the care of so many wonderful nurses. Whether they worked in the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine program, or the inpatient Cancer Units, they always had a smile on their face and a cheery attitude. This is hard to do, since all of us cancer kids are not happy about being there. I remember days when I was so frustrated I wouldn’t talk to the nurses. They always understood and didn’t ask me any additional questions. The days I couldn’t bring myself to smile they tried their hardest to make me laugh. Thank you to all the amazing nurses.
In the months following my surgery, I did intense rehab and physical therapy while on chemotherapy. I had two primary physical therapists, Sabina and Linda. In many ways they were different, but both of them were there right alongside me, never giving up on me. Their energy and optimism were contagious. Sabina steadily transitioned me from a wheelchair, to a walker, to crutches and finally to a cane. The day before my fifteenth birthday I was pretty down coming in for physical therapy. I had been hoping for my birthday that I could get up on my horse. However, I was still using a cane and believed that the idea of me being on a horse the next day had gone out the window. Linda had a different idea. Without hesitation in her voice she said we could get it done. We spent the next hour running through the mechanics of getting on and off a makeshift horse in the physical therapy room. Much to everyone’s excitement and surprise I did get on my horse for my birthday. Thank you, Sabina and Linda.
I would get frequent visits from Karen Gordon, my social worker. She spent countless hours ensuring that my mental health was holding up. She would encourage me to get up out of my hospital bed and go have pizza with the other teenagers. I never went. One day she asked what it would take to get me out of bed. I told her if Macklemore visited the hospital I would get up. When Macklemore put on a concert in Seattle, Karen handed me four tickets to the concert. “I never forget,” she said. Thank you, Karen.
From March through November, I had almost weekly appointments with two nurse practitioners, Kristin Gard and Sue Ehling. They were kind, compassionate, and no nonsense. My dad nicknamed them the “Boss Ladies.” We knew right away who was really running the show. I knew that success meant doing everything they told me to do. Each week they listened to me, picked me up when I was feeling down, and talked me through each round of chemo and the surgery. I never felt alone with them around. They treat all their patients with care and compassion, but I know we have something really special. Thank you, Kristen and Sue.
I believe words are powerful. Words can make you cry uncontrollably or laugh hysterically. Recently I turned 16. People referred to it as my “sweet sixteen.” They didn’t realize how sweet it really was. I know I still have a lot to learn, but in my opinion a simple thank you is still the best way to show how you feel. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone at Seattle Children’s.
When Kat’s not studying, hanging out with friends and family, or riding her horse, Scooter, she is raising money for Seattle Children’s Hospital. In fact, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Washington Chapter recently named Kat the 2014 Outstanding Young Philanthropist. Follow her progress on Kat’s Crew webpage. If you’re interested in donating to Kat’s Crew to support sarcoma research at Seattle Children’s, please visit the Kat’s Crew fundraiser page.