Katie, My Hero

by Mary Jane Hurley Brant

My daughter, Katie Brant, was my hero. She was self-possessed, intelligent and courageous. I witnessed Katie’s bravery early on when she marched down the hallway of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia headed for the gurney for her first brain surgery. She was only 18 years old and diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma. During this time as she underwent treatments while studying as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, Katie enrolled in a medical school class to research her own brain tumor. She was engaging, spirited and charming. Katie was also beautiful and lighthearted especially when she kidded me about my “Deep Thoughts” then laughed hysterically when I gave her another one.

Katie faced Sisyphean [endlessly laborious or futile] challenges with the chronic returns of the tumor undergoing five brain surgeries, two stem cell transplants, and a life-time’s dose of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and several experimental therapies. She agreed to undergo the experimental ones because she felt the data might help young children with brain tumors often saying how little children and their families had it far worse. Her optimism and confidence left no room for insecurity or self-pity. Nothing or no one ever stopped her from consciously exploring what was really important to her life’s purpose. She even studied French for 6 weeks in Paris and, while there, visited Notre Dame Cathedral daily to pray and discern her career path during a time when she felt dissatisfied with the corporate world without a cause-related component to it. Katie was consistently about “the big picture.”

Katie was her own woman, lived in Greenwich Village then, for awhile in Chelsea while she worked in Manhattan, New York City at Time, Inc. That was before she landed her dream job as National Director of Corporate Marketing for UNICEF. Soon after beginning this position, her health deteriorated requiring Katie to return home with her dad and me where she established her non-profit foundation, Katie’s Kids for the Cure which was operational for ten years. Many days she worked long hours from her bed, too sick and exhausted to be walking around. Few people even knew because Katie wasn’t given to having everyone else feel bad because of her plight. Some days, when she was particularly ill, she would rest on the couch in the bright sunshine. With her feet in my lap she worked or napped and I kept her company.

Katie was the sweetest, most loving and confident woman I’ve ever known. She helped anyone who needed her. She was deeply loved by absolutely everyone who knew her, especially me.

Yes, my daughter Katie was my hero. She lived the life of a modern-day saint and I suspect that one day she will have that title and not just in her mother’s heart but in the world’s heart, too.

About the Author: Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP is a practicing grief therapist for 32 years with a specialty in loss of a child. She’s also a Certified Group Psychotherapist, works in person or by phone and is the author of When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir on Love, Loss and Life (Simple Abundance Press). She has a sub-specialty in Multiple Sclerosis and serious illness as well as working within religious communities. Please visit her websites to learn more Mary Jane Hurley Brant or to read an excerpt of her book, When Every Day Matters.

Mary Jane, along with two other bereaved mothers, participated in  a television interview about coping with the death of a child. View the video.