Thriver Spotlight: Meet Our Bud, Katie

Posted: December 8, 2021








Having parents go through cancer is hard enough, but sometimes, the experience is more valuable than you’d think. Katie knows this better than anyone – as her mother went through cancer three times. 

Thanks to Mama, Katie was instilled with the self-exam habit from a young age, which saved her life – even when her mother lost hers.

ICYMI: we went live on Instagram with Katie part of our Thriver Thursday series — check out the convo here!

Katie’s Cancer Story

Katie found a lump in her left breast during a self-exam at age 30, which she knew didn’t seem right despite having recently finished breastfeeding her toddler. Luckily, she already had an appointment with her OB/GYN the following week for an IUD implementation.

At the appointment, Katie learned her intuition was correct – she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer (and had only a week with her new IUD – bummer). 

This wasn’t Katie’s first rodeo with cancer. Her mother had endured breast cancer when Katie was in high school, though she was quiet about it. With two young kids, Katie knew she had to approach coping differently than her mom. She wanted to be open about her treatment, struggles, and recovery to help herself and her family cope while educating others. 

Katie had a double mastectomy, eight rounds of chemo, 28 radiation treatments, a total hysterectomy, and breast revision surgery. Only seven days after finishing her active treatments, Katie’s mom was re-diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer after 15 cancer-free years. Sadly, Katie lost her six months later.

Trying to Heal While Grieving

The mental toll of cancer is intense. Katie had ups and downs with her mental health during chemo and treatment, and it took another plunge when her mom was sick and passed away. How do you heal yourself and properly grieve?

To honor her mother and keep busy, Katie threw herself into advocacy and volunteering with cancer groups. She also blogs about post-treatment struggles because she believes it’s the hardest part for cancer thrivers.

Katie’s Support System

Katie is thankful for the support she has, especially from her husband, Eric: “He has been there for me through my entire journey. He wore a t-shirt that says, ‘Her fight is my fight," whenever I had surgeries. He shaved my head, he has helped me feel beautiful while adjusting to my new body, and he has taken on lots of roles at home when I've needed extra help. Eric has been through it all with me and I can't thank him enough.”

Other friends and family show support by sporting pink, sending gifts, and making meals for Katie’s family. But not everyone sticks around in the trenches. 

Katie experienced ghosting from loved ones, which many cancer thrivers know all too well. She says after treatment hurts the worst because people think you’re cured and no longer need support, which is the furthest from the truth. 

“The hard work is after treatment. In treatment, there’s continuity of your day around the same people at the treatment center. Afterward, it’s like – where are all the people?”

She says to supporters: Don’t leave your thriver. Send silly texts. Check in. Don’t ghost or be a grief tourist. 

Let’s get to know her better!

Fun Facts About Katie

  1. She’s a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful children, Olivia (6) and Carter (4). 

  2. She loves working on counted cross-stitch projects. 

  3. She has a master’s degree in school library work and hopes to be a librarian again eventually. Her favorite book is Little Women.

What brings her joy: “Watching my two children grow and learn to be independent has been a true joy. They are a huge part of my journey, and I am thankful for their silliness to help me feel normal.”

Wellness rituals: Daily journaling, using tools like Grief Day by Day, gratefulness statements, and “I am” statements.

“I’m more than my grief. I’m more than my cancer.”

We are so grateful to have you in our community, Katie! You can follow along with her on her Instagram @katieohnoutka.

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