Hello, Happy Resilient Mama: Katie Kreiser
by Callie Collins
by Callie Collins
Dec 27, 2022
“I am a widow and a mother of three. I lost my husband, Chris Kreiser, to follicular lymphoma after he fought a hard battle that ended Dec. 17, 2018. We have fought and pushed through with our faith and the help and support of friends and family,” said Katie. “The Woman of the Year humbled us and gave us opportunities to share about the Society and raise money, with the hope to someday cure cancer.”
At first, nothing with Chris’ health seemed amiss but Katie now recognizes concerning signs.
“Chris was young and healthy but he did have a cold in October of 2017 that didn’t go away and he also lost 25 pounds without trying. That should have been an indicator but it didn't really trigger any light bulbs for us over the next three months. In January, we went to a different doctor, which led to his ultimate diagnosis,” explained Katie, who was pregnant at the time.
“About halfway through his chemo treatments, the staff told me ‘You can’t be here because you’re pregnant’ and that was extremely difficult. I had to rely on other people like his father and brother and my family to be there for him when I couldn’t. It was hard not to support him in that regard,” said Katie. Together, they welcomed their daughter in March 2018.
Katie continued working full-time throughout Chris’ treatment, then at Mission Bank. She continues to work as a loan processor at Summit Financial.
“I picked up the kids and made dinner and did all the mom things and kept life normal for our children as much as we could,” said Katie. “But it was still strange. Chris wore a mask pre-COVID and we just had to take it one day at a time and see what that day brought. We had and continue to have a good support system to help out. My parents would help out with anything that we needed.”
Even with both families offering support, Katie described that time as a heavy one.
“I reached out and leaned on people. I prayed a lot and I started reading a couple of books, like "Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World" by Max Lucado,” said Katie.
When it comes to advice for others going through similar situations, Katie recalls a visit from her uncle.
“Right after Chris passed away, one of my uncles brought us dinner and his advice was ‘If somebody says they want to help you, you say ‘okay.’ You say ‘yes,’ because they want to cover you with love and help in any way possible but they don't know how. If it's dinner, or to walk your dog, or fold laundry, just say ‘okay’ or tell people how they can help. I can be strong, brave for my kids but that is what they can do,” said Katie.
She also suggests how helpful simple actions like babysitting for an hour, giving a gift card or simply letting the other person cry can be.
She also recommends sharing stories of the person who has passed away.
“I don't want my kids to not remember their Dad and see pictures and videos only. Tell people that funny story and fill their heart with that love,” said Katie.
Life continues in the Kreiser household as each person continues to live with and process the loss. Katie recommends talking with school districts for grief counseling resources for children, which have become more available since the COVID-19 pandemic due in part to the loss of parents and siblings.
“I knew if I didn't jump back into my regular routine that I wouldn't do justice for my life and Chris’ life and the lives of our children. I would still be stuck in that emotional state and I wanted to keep moving forward, take one step at a time. In our present lives, we are thriving. I love the life we have made so far,” she said.
Other practical issues to consider in similar circumstances include setting up a family trust with affidavits for health matters, handling bank information and taking necessary steps to help avoid probate. She recommends looking into life insurance as well.
“You think you're young and you don't need it but you do. Life insurance is something you hope never to have to use but it is one of the most important things so our kids can go to college,” Katie explained.
Staying involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has also been important to Katie.
Tiger Fight is a local leukemia and lymphoma supportive charity that sponsored Katie in Light the Night, the Society’s annual awareness event.
“The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society reached out and nominated me every year for Woman of the Year but I kept telling them ‘Not yet, no, my kids are too little’ and I finally said yes because one of my friends had won and she said to me ‘you do hard things every day this is just one more thing. Add one more hard thing to your list.’”
Katie is now on a leadership committee for the Society as a co-chair. The 2023 title will change to “Visionaries of the Year” instead of “Man and Woman of the Year,” titles observed at chapters nationwide. Katie’s $100,000 fundraising effort came together with a variety of fund aisers, including writing letters to about 150 people on her Christmas card list, using social media, coordinating raffles and hosting a birthday party in celebration of Chris’ life at Dewar’s Candy Shop.
“People tell me all the time, ‘I don't know how you do it.’ My kids are the reason why I get up every day. They are my purpose and I love them so much and I want to love them so much,” she said. “I am still here for a reason: to be part of an amazing community, to help raise great kids, to help fund raise and support the community wherever I can. That became my why; he became my why and also why I want to give back.”
Find out more about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at https://www.llsvisionaries.org/.
Editor’s note: Katie wishes to express her sincere thanks to her parents, Bob and Loretta Ivester. “I want to say how amazing my parents have been through this,” she added. “I would be lost without them.”
4 RECOMMENDATIONS FROM KATIE:
Q. What is your parenting PSA?
A. No parent has it all together, even if it looks that way.
Q. Are there any specific book passages you would like to share with our readers?
A. Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado: “It does you no good to obsess yourself with your trouble. The more you stare at it, the bigger it grows. Yet the more you look to God, the quicker the problem is reduced to its proper size.”
Q. Are there any self care practices you recommend for family members who grieve?
A. Try to be active every day. It could be a walk around the block for 5 minutes or 30 minutes at the park playing with your kiddos. Nature helps heal and it brings clarity to those who are open to it.
Q. What is your best life advice?
A. You don’t know what battle others are going through, so be kind… Always.