One Day at a Time
Christie Blackwood loved life - her family, her friends, her soccer team. But on September 16, 2002, at the age of 12, she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. Suddenly every day became a treasured gift that could not be taken for granted - one that required her to take each moment step by step and to make the most of life's smallest joys.
A Link to the Outside World
After her diagnosis, Christie was admitted to Minneapolis Children's Hospital and began inpatient treatment. She spent most of the next six months in the hospital and missed being able to spend time with her friends. But thanks to a child life specialist who recommended the family create a CaringBridge website to keep in touch with loved ones, Christie did not have to travel this journey alone.
"CaringBridge was a link to the outside world for Christie," says Karla. "Starting a CaringBridge site was a great idea for a soon-to-be teenager to stay in contact with her friends, and for everyone we knew to get information about her condition without having to contact us individually."
Karla had many close friends who followed Christie's story. Using CaringBridge during this time allowed Karla to maintain these precious friendships that were marked by 40 years of love and dedication and featured in the best-selling book The Girls from Ames. With so many individuals wanting to show their support, she needed CaringBridge to keep everyone connected and up-to-date on Christie's journey.
Christie loved using her CaringBridge site and insisted on writing her own journal entries. The genuine, optimistic and thankful spirit she portrayed in her entries truly made an impact on those who read them, reminding each person of what really mattered in life and that each day is a gift to enjoy.
"Christie was very open and willing to share the details of her battle with cancer," Karla says. "She shared the good, the bad and the ugly, and it gave people a real sense of what daily life was like for someone dealing with cancer."
Treasuring Every Moment
By March 2003, Christie was in remission and happily returned home, soon rejoining her soccer team. Three months later, her cancer relapsed and she was scheduled for surgery and another round of chemotherapy. She began a stem cell transplant on September 3.
Through every high and low on this emotional roller coaster, Bruce and Karla were able to treasure every moment possible with their daughter. Instead of spending time making phone call after phone call repeating the story, one post on CaringBridge let everyone know the latest news at once, freeing up time that was better spent with Christie and her siblings.
"This was a time when we needed to focus on Christie and our family, and couldn't spend time on the phone with everyone," Karla says. "I think it answered some questions that would have been difficult for our friends and family to ask us personally."
A Journey Ends, A Legacy Begins
On January 9, 2004, Christie was able to go home for the day to celebrate her 14th birthday. Soon after, she was back in the hospital with a 100.7 degree fever that lasted four days. It wasn't long before her parents had to take over her journal entries, as she became too weak to write on her CaringBridge site. Over the next several weeks, her condition became increasingly more serious. On February 20, she passed away in the company of those she loved.
Christie's legacy continues to live through her CaringBridge website. Out of respect for Christie, her parents no longer provide journal entries, but even so, many continue to visit her site. "Not everyone signs the guestbook, but just seeing the number of visits increase each day, I know people are thinking of her," Karla says. "It is very comforting."