In this undated photo, Katrina Albertson enjoys a light-hearted moment when she was a toddler. (Photo submitted)
When Katrina Albertson was a mere 2 years old, a devastating diagnosis came.
“This little bird has leukemia.”
However, her doctor was optimistic about beating the disease, which was a huge encouragement for the Albertson family.
Fast-forward 12 years.
June 15, 2012, represents two milestones for Katrina.
Due to the talented doctor, his medical team back in California and a series of modern medical miracles, June 15 is when the young Murfreesboro girl will celebrate her 14th birthday.
“On June 15, my family and I will also have a Katrina Team in the American Cancer Society’s 2012 Relay for Life of Rutherford County at the Lane Agri-Park in Murfreesboro,” Katrina said.
Smyrna resident Jennifer Stuart is a “Golden Girls” team co-captain.
“There’s a $10 registration fee, plus each entrant is asked raise a minimum of $100,” Stuart said. “We’re big fans of Katrina and her bright spirit.”
“We’ll also be celebrating my birthday on that date as I prepare to enter Siegel High School this fall,” Katrina added.
Meet parents Jason Albertson, manager of Tire World in La Vergne, and Rachel Albertson, plus siblings Marissa, 16, and 11-year-old Garrett – Katrina’s in-house family support team who will be walking to raise funds for continued medical research, so other young children diagnosed with cancer can reach milestone birthdays.
After the relay, Katrina said she looks forward to a camp for young cancer survivors in July.
“It’s a huge summer, for I love going to Camp Horizon at Kingston Springs in July,” Katrina noted, adding the first week of camp is for those who have been diagnosed with cancer, while the second turns to a time of family.
“On the second week of camp, that’s when my brother and sister will come and join, for Siblings’ Week,” Katrina said.
Katrina’s parents said Siblings Week is important because it allows brothers and sisters to share and hear how other siblings cope and adjust to having a loved one with a serious illness.
Rachel Albertson recalled Katrina’s devastating prognosis 12 long years ago.
“After she limped some, plus mysterious fevers, splotches on her skin and unusual food cravings, it was still difficult for doctors to diagnose our child’s illness, with opinions ranging from bone disorders to dietary problems,” she noted. “Finally, it was a relief in a way, when our bright, talented doctor came bouncing into Katrina’s room, with his cheerful, but very serious declaration: ‘This little bird has leukemia.’”
The prognosis could be worse, the physician added.
“The doctor advised there were two other more dreadful possibilities, far worse than acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” she said. “But, we were still shocked when he added, ‘Be thankful your child has leukemia.’ At the same time, we were glad to know what Katrina was facing.”
Upon hearing the dreaded “C” word, Katrina and her family’s lives were dramatically altered.
“Along with 14 blood transfusions, Katrina faced 26 months of chemotherapy,” Rachel Albertson said, recalling the family’s time in California. “Boys with the same disease face 36 months of chemo. Today, with medical advancements, there’s a survival rate of (more than) 85 percent.”
“I could have died,” Katrina said calmly during her recent press conference.
“We’re so thankful for all those who stepped forward to donate blood to help our daughter survive,” Rachel Albertson shared.
The entire family was affected.
“At the beginning Katrina’s treatment, which required an hours’ drive each way back and forth to the hospital, I was three months pregnant,” Rachel Albertson recalled. “Our support groups were also monumental in helping us get through it, as a family.”
“Now that we’ve weathered those tough early years of extensive chemo, we want to help other victims and families know there are support systems, such as the Kingston Springs’ camp, available,” she said. “We’re very supportive its endeavors.”
“My stepmother, upon arrival the next morning after the diagnosis, suggested we contact our insurance company up front, instead of waiting on the hospital to make the initial contact. It was the right thing to do, and avoided future worry and concern about whether we would have coverage…”
Rachel was three months pregnant with son Garrett at the beginning of Katrina’s treatment period.
“We induced labor a week early, so I would not birth Garrett while driving Katrina back and forth for treatments,” she shared.
“We have ‘Super Mom’ and ‘Super Dad,’” Katrina credits.
This is not the first Relay for Life for the Albertson family, who moved to Rutherford County five years ago.
“I recall our family’s first Relay for Life,” Rachel noted. “I toted newborn Garrett in a pouch, while pushing Katrina in a stroller and Marissa was holding to the stroller in our first Relay for Life back in California.”
Be on the lookout for Katrina in this week’s Relay for Life.
She’ll be wearing a bright, beautiful radiant healthy smile.
For more information on signing up for the Rutherford County Relay for Life, call Kathy Stockman at 615-417-3555.