What defines you?

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Your unemployment status?

Your loneliness?

Your illness?

Your, ___________ fill in the blank?

I learned something today for the umpteenth time and it came from someone who died two days ago at the age of 54 as a result of a 14-year battle with benign, but aggressive, meningioma brain tumors.  Kathi Goertzen underwent numerous surgeries; endured countless chemotherapy and radiation treatments; and sought out additional therapies in other countries.  But these tumors mercilessly came back again, and again, and again.  Nerves in her face were destroyed making it difficult for her to speak as clearly as she wished.  Similar nerve impairment gradually affected her ability to swallow, and therefore, eat.  And what makes all of those symptoms more notable, is that Kathi was the consummate news anchor at a Seattle ABC affiliate, Komo4 News.  Kathi was on camera for over thirty years and even when she was no longer able to sit at the anchor desk, Kathi powered through as a field reporter both in the United States and abroad.

Giving up was not in Kathi Goertzen’s DNA.  It became obvious to all of us – and I never personally met her, she was simply one of the news anchors I admired the most – that Kathi virtually defined the word “tenacious.”  Throughout the years, Ms. Goertzen spent countless days in the intensive care unit (ICU) of local hospitals with her husband, two daughters, parents & siblings, and her Komo4 News family standing by her as the most supportive cheerleading team of its kind.  And once she got over that bump in the road, she carried on in her media career, and as an extraordinary wife and mother – the latter which she considered her most important roles in life.  A recent video tribute to Kathi, which can be found at the Komo4 News link, shows interviews with Kathi in which she said that she didn’t want people to feel sorry for her; she didn’t want all the attention that this unfortunate condition drew to her.  And then there was this statement, paraphrased from the video tribute:

These tumors don’t define me.  I won’t let them!

I immediately thought of the many times I let hardships and circumstances define who I am.  Oh, it’s so easy to give in to the tendency to feel sorry for ourselves isn’t it?  To pay more attention to the bad than the good.  It’s scandalous to think that in my several decades of life I have given the hardship (whether it be chronic pain, relationships, job struggles and the like) the upper hand, thereby giving power to that which should have never been given purchase in my life.

Thank you Kathi for getting through to me on this very important issue: circumstances don’t define me, I’ve only ALLOWED them to do so.

Kathi Goertzen Foundation raises research funds to find cures for brain cancers and tumors. .

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One thought on “What defines you?

    Kathy said:
    August 17, 2012 at 7:31 am

    For the past few years, I think I’ve inwardly let my mom’s death define me. I tried to be more like her as a person, but that didn’t work. I am me – Kathy. Through this journey of grief, I am finally learning to who I am and that it’s ok to be just that. Great post!

    Like

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