“I know I have malignant cells in me right now that are multiplying,” says Catherine, “but I’ve learned to live with it.” Diagnosed 5 years ago with a rare form of Leukemia, Catherine manages her disease with a cocktail of medications and random rounds of chemo as her doctor sees fit. “I feel lucky that I got the ‘good kind’ of cancer, the one they want to study and have great meds for. Sometimes I have to strap on the pink, chemo backpack though and wear it around for a week.”

Saying she feels lucky in the same sentence as cancer can only be a Catherine trait. “She has a healthy mind,” says her close friend. “She doesn’t let challenges affect her positively about life.”

Catherine goes on to tell me how they discovered the Leukemia and how she was lucky to have broken her pelvis during a cycling accident a year prior, so that when she couldn’t seem to get better after the surgery the doctors probed further into why. “I had a one, three and five year old at home. I couldn’t even pick up my babies.” Catherine spent almost a year trying to heal before they discovered the Leukemia. “I was in a fog. I didn’t know why I was so tired. And it’s funny, when women feel tired they just write it off to exhaustion because we juggle so much. When a man gets sick, he goes to the doctor.” She laughs.

Fast-forward one more year and Catherine was hospitalized for viral meningitis, most likely from taxing her petite 5’2” frame to several rounds of chemo. “I was an Ironman,” she says. “I once cycled from Vienna to Moscow. I had been an athlete all my life, but this was taking me down. I remember telling my husband one night as we waited for the ambulance, not to wake the kids.”

Soon after, Catherine’s marriage ended suddenly. “He was used to me being the strong one.” She is tight lipped and respectful when she talks about him but you can sense there is a heartbreaking story to tell. “It’s been a pretty crazy 5 years.” She laughs.

Turning struggle into strength, Catherine doesn’t look back. She concentrates on her work as a physical therapist, raising her three children, and patenting an idea for women’s underwear. “It’s funny, maybe I was lucky to have had 3 C-sections in three years before I broke my pelvis. It helped me come up with the idea for ‘C Panty,’ (underwear that helps women heal their C section scars.) Mine looks amazing now.” She laughs. Not stopping a beat, Catherine carries on. I somehow feel really lucky to have met her.

A few more …

About the currency project

The Currency Project challenges us all to see the beauty through the pain, the positive that can come from a negative and the heartbreak that can turn into a new beginning. Life is uncertain but our faith, hope and love can never be taken from us. Our true currency in life is what we make it.