Originally published December 29, 2014
By DEVIN HEILMAN
COEUR d’ALENE – Katie Stolebarger’s world has been turned upside-down.
On Nov. 13, she received the worst news of her life – she has stage 4 breast cancer.
The otherwise super healthy 32-year-old single mom was in disbelief when her surgeon told her the swollen lymph node under her armpit was indeed cancer and that it had spread to her hip bone and a vertebrae on her spine. She thought she was just going in for a routine checkup.
“I immediately started sobbing and still can’t believe such a thing could be happening to me,” she said.
She is facing several rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation and won’t be able to work for a while. Stolebarger, of Coeur d’Alene, has been a real estate agent at Windermere for 13 years, and her work family at Windermere plans to be right by her side during her journey through cancer.
“She’s just a neat gal; I love her to pieces,” said Windermere co-owner and foundation secretary/treasurer Midge Smock. “We’re definitely family oriented and Katie is one of ours and we’re going to take care of her.”
Smock and her son and daughter-in-law were quick to action when they heard of Stolebarger’s distress.
“We were in Hawaii on vacation and we got a text and that was the week before Thanksgiving,” Smock said. “My daughter-in-law, son and I immediately got home and started figuring out what we could do.”
Smock and other Windermere agents are rallying support for Stolebarger to help her pay the forthcoming medical expenses as well as continue to provide for her 6-year-old son, Jackson. Smock said they have reached out to Stolebarger’s friends and others in the real estate community to donate their time or money to the cause. A Christmas photography fundraiser brought in about $7,000; combined with other efforts, fundraisers have generated close to $30,000 for Stolebarger, whose insurance deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses are about $27,000 so far.
Smock said they are in the process of setting up a trust for Stolebarger to also help with the medical bills and accompanying expenses. In the past, Windermere jumped to the rescue of one of its agents who needed a bone marrow transplant.
“We raised the money and it saved his life,” Smock said.
The real estate agency is once again stepping up for one of its employees.
“Her chemotherapy is going to be very intense,” Smock said. “We want to keep her in her apartment and help take care of her son. She’s in a fight for her life.”
Stolebarger has already gone through a couple sessions of chemo and knows she will be losing her blond hair soon. She is holding her head high and trying to maintain a positive and proactive attitude as she faces a frightening journey. She is happy and thankful to have her Windermere family.
“I can’t imagine not having them here right now,” Stolebarger said. “They’re like having an extra 100 family members to have by my side to walk through this with me.”
As for her own family, Stolebarger said being diagnosed with cancer has brought them closer. She said her friends have been supportive, too, and everyone is thinking more about the important things in life.
“I’ve been blogging about what really matters,” she said. “It’s not hair, it’s not having a perfect face or big boobs. None of that really matters because when you’re sitting in the chemo room, people are just happy to be alive. Everything just goes out the window.”
She said her family does have a history of breast cancer and she encourages all women to go in and get checked.
“I was fine, other than being a little tired. I feel fine,” she said. “Even if you feel fine, just go.”
For info, to read Stolebarger’s blog or donate, visit www.caringforkatie.org.
Caring for Katie