Sunshine. A smiley face. The color yellow. These are a few of the things that instantly come to mind when someone says “Kathleen.” That’s probably due to her immensely positive outlook on life and the fact that she creates an incessant stream of laughter wherever she goes. This can be exemplified by her account of her first battle with Rhabdomyosarcoma at the delicate age of seven. Kathleen recounts that she thought of cancer as a commonplace event, happening to everyone at some point. Her innate positivity let her focus on being able to skip school, play with therapy dogs, and indulge in all the Jell-O her little heart desired.
It wasn’t until I got re-diagnosed at fourteen with a much larger, aggressive, malignant tumor wrapped around my spine that I began to understand that cancer was a very serious condition. I went through a very difficult treatment, which included nine months of chemotherapy, a month of proton beam therapy, back surgery in Minnesota, and finally a spinal reconstruction surgery.
Upon reoccurrence Kathleen began to struggle to accept the severity of the situation, referring to it as one of her darkest times. Rather than being excited to skip, she now found sanctuary by being in school, something that many kids that age take for granted.
When it came time for her Life Adventure Kathleen wasn’t entirely sure what to say and left the reigns in the hands of the team. When word made it to the Live For Today team that Kathleen never had a Sweet 16, or a big birthday party for that matter, the answer became obvious.
I wanted to do something with all my friends and I kind of wanted to do something with the Live For Today people, because I just think that they’re awesome anyways.
Nearly a year later, Cassandra, one of Kathleen’s best friends implored her to come test hair and make up artists before meeting a possible planner at a wedding held at the beach. Being Cassandra’s maid of honor, Kathleen, begrudgingly, felt it was necessary to assist despite having extended family in town. So with many thanks to Cortello Salon, Kathleen was able to unknowingly arrive at her own event looking like a million dollars!
Kathleen was totally thrown off guard. As she stepped into the Blue Jay, and what she thought was a wedding ceremony, she was hit with a boisterous “SURPRISE!!!” An expression of pure awe covered her face as she took in the lights, DJ, candy bar, cake, and most importantly everyone who loves her!
Her shock remained as she explored outside the venue to find a carnival-themed party. Thanks to Space Walk of Jacksonville there were carnival games — bank shot, ski ball, ring toss, and even a dunk tank featuring Todd, Live For Today founder.
Inside, guests danced the night away while enjoying carnival themed food provided by PJ’s catering and making memories in the photo booth, thanks to Music and Photo Booths. The evening was really made when everyone stopped to sing “Happy Birthday,” and Kathleen cut into what just so happened to be her favorite type of cake – raspberry!
“It was just so cool and really made me feel super special. They totally, totally pulled it off. It was absolutely extraordinary. There were so many people… just there to see me.”
It was an unforgettable night for Kathleen who expressed immeasurable joy and gratitude for everyone who attended. She was thrilled to see family from Miami, friends from out of town, her old neighborhood, and of course Live For Today-ers. A special thanks to all the volunteers who assisted and to Morgan Lee Photography for providing such awesome shots to look back on.