Posted on November 20, 2016
Posted on November 20, 2016Hi friends. We will be holding a memorial service for Kate this Tuesday at 10 AM at Forest Lawn in Glendale. In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation in memory of Kate to your local Planned Parenthood branch or the national PP organization. Kate relied on PP for her health care in Washington, DC, where she and her husband Rob met. She was passionate about the services they provide for women without a health care provider, including breast cancer screenings and more.
Forest Lawn is a quiet treasure that the family can see from their home, with scenic views of the Los Angeles area. We feel privileged to memorialize Kate here, where we can think of her often.
Kate Harrison Getzschman Memorial Service
Tuesday, November 22, 10 AM
1712 S Glendale Ave
Glendale, CA 91205
Posted on November 19, 2016
Posted on November 19, 2016Just before 9am today, Kate passed peacefully with a sigh. Just three days before, she and her doctors were expressing hope and discussing options that she might be able to go home. They considered the potential of one more round of chemo and a back surgery that would strengthen her spine and give her some relief from her broken vertebra. And Kate was still joking with doctors and nurses. After one heavy medical conversation, Kate said "Everybody in!" and put out her hand. The doctors and nurses awkwardly piled their hands on and Kate said, "Go TEAM!" She really loved social awkwardness.
But sometime Tuesday, Kate slipped into a sleep that she didn't rouse from as she had previously. Her team had finally dialed in a good regimen of meds that didn't make her woozy or out of control, but from that day on, the times she stirred were brief and confused.
Her family and friends rallied around her for the next two days, seeing brief glimpses of awareness, including opening her eyes just enough to say, "I love you". After a chat with our amazing friend and pediatrician Jen, our daughters Georgia and Hattie were able to come to her side and see her and try to understand her condition. Her sisters and I traded nights at her side, watching her vital signs and listening for hints of distress, so we could keep her in comfort with regular meds.
On Friday morning, her vital signs were slowly declining, but it was hard to tell if she would be hours or days. A few hours after her sister Anne-Marie and Kristi tagged out to get some rest at 4 in the morning, her sister Jane and I watched her breathing slow until it was intermittent. She had a couple big sighs and came to rest. More family arrived shortly after to say goodbye.
Kate was so touched by the generosity of friends and family and complete strangers who reached out through this website to support her family. Her greatest worry was that her two girls wouldn't have their mom to see them grow up and guide them through life. But Kate's sisters and family have been so dedicated to her, giving up months of their lives to drop everything and be with her, and they showed her that our girls would never be without the love and support and guidance of their aunts and cousins and family. As her husband, I would have been completely lost navigating this experience without her sisters. Along with nieces and cousins and others, they have been the backbone of our family helping me tend to Kate, understand her needs and the doctors' recommendations, and reassure her that our girls would be taken care of, all while helping take care of the girls, get them fed and bathed and to bed, cleaning our house, getting groceries, and everything else a normal house needs to keep running. I don't know what Kate and I would've done without them. And I feel like there's no thank-you big enough to express our gratitude. So thank you all for everything. You brought grace and love and dignity to a horrible, terrible experience, and I can only hope that anyone who faces a diagnosis like this has support like this. Kate and I are eternally grateful.
With love and gratitude,
Posted on November 12, 2016
Posted on November 12, 2016It has been eight months since we last posted an update, and many friends have been asking how Kate is doing. Lung cancer treatment is different for every patient, depending on the genome of the cancer. Initially, Kate qualified for a targeted therapy that enabled her to take a pill every day instead of chemotherapy. That treatment was successful until about April, when a scan determined that the tumor had stopped responding to the pill. So in May, Kate began a 12-week regimen of chemotherapy that brought her to UCLA once a week from northeast LA.
All through this and dating back to her diagnosis, her doctors were working hard to find Kate a pain management regimen for her broken vertebrae and lesions on her hip bones that kept her in bed for most of her waking hours. That changed regularly, as some medications were tested and rused out. On some days, Kate was amazed how well she felt, being able to get up and move around almost like normal. But on most days, she struggled with a lot of physical pain that kept her immobile, and a large schedule of medications were required to offset side effects of her various treatments.
After chemotherapy, Kate had nausea that persisted atypically, and a scan in August revealed that she had some additional growths in her brain that required 2-3 weeks of radiation. The treatment was successful and with additional medication, the resulting nausea was brought under control. Unfortunately, the scans also revealed that chemotherapy had only limited the growth of the tumors in her lungs, as opposed to shrinking them. But her team hoped that chemo once a month indefinitely might've been her best chance to hold the tumors in check.
The week before Halloween, Kate had moved to a new transdermal patch that delivered a steadier supply of pain relief than the pills she had been taking for most of the year. But there was some conflict in the dosage of the new patch and other medications that resulted in her husband finding her unresponsive one night after the kids were asleep. An ambulance came to the house and she was revived on the way to Glendale Adventist hospital, where the ER received her. This began a long week of recovery that was excruciating for her, as she couldn't resume the same medications until her vital signs were stable.
Our hopes were for Kate to return home that week, but her recovery was met with frustrating complications that stretched into a full week at Adventist. Just as it seemed the staff there had found the right combination of pain management, she began having trouble breathing with any movement, necessitating a steady oxygen supply. So Kate decided with her family that it would be best to transfer her to UCLA to be under the care of her oncologist team.
This past Sunday night, Kate transferred to UCLA without incident, but the handoff of the medication schedule between hospitals left her in a lot of pain for several nights. Thankfully the team at UCLA knows her history best, and they found several modifications that enabled her to rest with much less pain in just a few days. Currently she's surrounded by family and we hope to be able to move her home for a more natural recovery environment sometime soon. In the meantime she is attended by an amazing staff of professionals and a world-class facility at UCLA Santa Monica.
It has been a really tough year for Kate physically and emotionally, but she has maintained the humor that her friends and family adore her for. Even under any number of pain management meds, she continues to make us cry with laughter as we support her and stay nights with her at UCLA. We all appreciate the love and thoughts you continue to send. We are all touched by how many of you love Kate as much as we do, and it reminds us how lucky we are to have her in our lives. Thank you all for giving us heart and hope!