Ten days before an appointment to donate her hair to an organization that makes wigs for cancer patients, Katie Vacanti-Mitchell of Brentwood, Tenn., was ironically diagnosed with leukemia. Katie’s natural inclination to help others didn’t stop when she received the news that she would be the cancer patient. In fact, her personal experiences at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital prompted her to create her own charity, Katie’s Helping Hand. The charity raises money to provide free meals to families with children on the cancer floor of the hospital.
Katie became very familiar with the cancer floor after being diagnosed with leukemia in May 2005. Her treatments included bone marrow aspirations, more than 10 spinal taps and, most recently, chemotherapy. One side effect of her treatment is osteonecrosis, which has begun to destroy the bone tissue in her shoulder and ankles. She continues treatments while maintaining her service-oriented attitude.
Katie believes her positive outlook and dedication to serving others comes from wise parents who taught her to be grateful for all she has. “In your worst moments, you help other people,” she said, “because there is always going to be somebody else out there who has it worse than you.”