My daughter, Katie Brant, was my hero.  She was given an overwhelming challenge which she met valiantly, fearlessly and always with a greater good in mind.  I witnessed Katie’s bravery early on when she marched down the hallway of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia toward the gurney for her first brain surgery. She was only 18 years old.

Katie was highly intelligent.  During the early days of her treatments, while an undergraduate at The University of Pennsylvania, she enrolled in a medical school class to research her own brain tumor.  In the bibliography of her text book she saw a doctor sited who specialized in her type of brain tumor: anaplastic astrocytoma.  Days later she boarded a train to New York to meet him.  Of course he became her oncologist because everybody said yes to Katie; she was spirited, charming and light hearted especially when she kidded me about my “Deep Thoughts” then laughed hysterically when I gave her another one.

Katie faced Sisyphean challenges again and again after being diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a fist, a disease which turned chronic and required more and more treatments. Up she pushed the bolder then back down it rolled month after month, year after year. In all, Katie had five brain surgeries, two stem cell transplants, and a life-time’s dose of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and several experimental therapies. She underwent the experimental ones not because she believed they would help her but because she felt the data might help young children with brain tumors.

Katie’s attitude was so much about “the big picture.” During the ten years she battled her cancer she never questioned “why me?” often saying how little children and their families had it far worse.  Even during her treatments she always thought about how she could help others which led her to researching cause-related marketing (this links a charity to a corporate sponsor).  Her passion and belief in putting the two ideas together soon earned Katie the title “Cause-Related Marketing Specialist.” Katie was a true pioneer in this endeavor and her promotion paved the way to land her dream job as National Director of Corporate Marketing for UNICEF.

But when Katie’s health deteriorated and she couldn’t manage by herself anymore, she returned home with her dad and me and established her own non-profit foundation, Katie’s Kids for the Cure.  Many days she worked long hours from her bed, too sick and exhausted to be walking around.  Few people knew because Katie wasn’t given to having others feel bad because of her plight. Katie’s Kids stayed operational for 10 years managed after her death by her brother and sister-in-law.  Her medical and advisory board was established by Katie.

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 hero and 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.