I have a message of gratitude for you on this Good Friday. Before I get to that, I want to share something about what is known in Christian circles as “standing at the foot of the cross.”
Standing at the foot of the cross is something that I learned about in midlife. While I had often read the accounts of Mother Mary and Jesus’ friends standing vigil as he hung, suffering, on his cross, I had been reared in a religion that relied on the denial of evil. We were trained to look away from evil and replace it in our minds with something better. This doesn’t teach you how to interact with suffering – your own, or anyone else’s.
It was in midlife, after witnessing the intense suffering of friends and family, that I knew I could no longer look away. A new faith journey opened my heart and eyes to be able to be present with suffering. A few years later, when Katie was the one “on the cross,” I learned even more about the power of presence in crisis: that while it’s not expected (nor possible) that we can “fix” a situation for another, our presence with them can be an agent of healing. There are many examples of this healing agency in our lives, including the doctors, nurses and community that stood with us and ministered to us in the months of Katie’s illness, as well as after her death. One of the agents of healing is the Katie Gerstenberger Endowment for Cancer Research.
Some of you know that we founded the endowment at Seattle Children’s Hospital shortly before Katie died. When asked, she directed us to establish it to cure cancers like hers. This is a tall order, as it’s extremely rare and therefore, under-funded for research. What we did was to direct the funds to research that had the best chance of translating to cancers like hers, and that research is bearing great fruit now. We began supporting T-cell therapy research for treating leukemia, and the work has expanded to therapy for solid tumors, which is exactly what Katie wanted. Her endowment is one of 61 at the hospital that is dedicated to supporting their cancer care team, including 11 immunotherapy clinical trials developed by researchers at SCH.
It’s a balm to my heart to know that Katie’s wish is coming true, and that because of this research and these clinical trials, other families will not have to suffer horrible treatments with awful side effects – or worse, the death of their children.
So today, I can report – with enormous gratitude for the generosity of our family and friends for their gifts of $27, 256 in 2020 – that the balance of the Katie Gerstenberger Endowment for Cancer Research was $557,538 at the end of 2020. The endowment’s income, directed to cancer research last year was $20,897 (the principal remains invested in the hospital’s account).
Every dollar in this endowment represents the willingness of someone to come forward and stand at the foot of Katie’s cross, our cross, and the cross of countless others we will never meet, to alleviate suffering. That’s a Good Friday message, indeed. ❤️