“You were hugged by the entire organization, treated like someone they would never forget and always take care of. It’s this whole community of love and care.”
A Legacy of Love
Katie Monson’s Family Carries on Her Mission of Kindness and Inclusion
Katie Monson might have been only twenty years old. But, in that short time, she shared a lifetime’s worth of empathy and compassion.
Along with her parents, Jennifer and Danny Monson, and her sisters, Julia and Emily, Katie always enjoyed volunteering and spending time with her beloved friends in Fullerton.
As president of the Associated Student Body (ASB) at Fullerton Union High School, Katie demonstrated a natural gift for leadership. Her mother, Jennifer, remembers the Valentine’s Day when Katie, with the help of her ASB class, made and distributed valentines to every student in school, so that nobody would be left out. “She was always focused on the kids who were on the fringe,” she recalls. “She wanted to make sure that everybody felt included all the time.”
It was in 2017, toward the end of her freshman year at UCLA, that Katie noticed her left eye turning inward and visited her ophthalmologist at home in Fullerton. The doctor observed pressure building behind her eye and insisted that Katie go immediately to the Emergency Department at Providence St. Jude Medical Center. Hours later, she was diagnosed with a golf ball-sized tumor behind her eye.
The next day, the Monson family met with Katie’s neurosurgeon, Lars Anker, MD. “Katie really trusted and connected with Dr. Anker,” reflects her father, Danny. Under his care, her tumor was removed, and she went home five days later. Their worst fears were realized when a biopsy revealed Katie’s tumor was cancerous. They were introduced to David Park, MD, who became Katie’s oncologist; he empathized deeply with the Monson family and collaborated with experts around the world to treat Katie’s brain cancer. Jennifer remembers, “He was in some exotic place getting ready to ride an elephant with his family, but called us to talk about the next steps. He was always thinking about us and Katie.”
Over the course of her treatment, Katie returned to Providence St. Jude many times. There were a number of difficult conversations, including one with Katie’s radiologist, Dechen Dolkar, MD — who told the family the devastating news when the treatments were no longer working.
Katie fought her cancer fiercely for 497 days. She passed away on September 21, 2018, at her family’s home in Fullerton.
Despite their grief, the couple remains deeply grateful to the physicians and caregivers of Providence St. Jude. “They treated us kindly and like individuals, “says Jennifer, smiling through her tears. “You were hugged by the entire organization, treated like someone they would never forget and always take care of. It’s this whole community of love and care.”
That compassionate care inspired Jennifer and Danny to make a generous $50,000 contribution to Providence St. Jude Medical Center. A plaque in Katie’s memory has been installed in the infusion center at the Crosson Cancer Institute. The Monsons have designated their gift to the Nurse Navigator program — with gratitude to Deborah (Debbie) Yoon, RN, who offered tremendous comfort and stability throughout Katie’s treatment.
“I don’t think we could have gotten through it without Debbie,” says Danny. “We want to make sure that the Nurse Navigator program stays intact and that it has the resources necessary to continue it, to enhance it, to improve it. Because it was so vital to us, so comforting to us.”
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