by Tracy Patrizi VanderLuitgaren, 1994 graduate –

When I was in high school, a dear friend and Marian Catholic Community student was diagnosed with liver cancer.

At such a young age, it was very hard to comprehend why someone so young could be faced with such a terrible disease. Kristi Hapaniewski passed away not too long after she was diagnosed. She fought hard, always with a smile on her face even when she felt the worst. She would crack jokes and try to cheer us all up even when she knew the end of her battle was near.

Kristi’s cancer was the first time the disease hit home for me. Years and years later, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. Talk about a fighter. She endured six long years of what seemed like nonstop chemo and surgeries. She also fought hard and brave, always thinking of others and rarely complaining about what God had faced her with. She was a spiritual woman and even after losing her son in 2005 and fighting cancer, she still believed in the power of God and knew that after she was gone, she would rest in eternal peace.

And just recently, my uncle Joe Dee, a strong Marian supporter, also lost his battle with cancer. He, too, was a fighter and continued to have faith in God throughout his journey.

I cannot tell you how blessed I am to partner with Becky’s Warriors. Many of us have gone our separate ways after high school and we have now come together again to help those whose lives have been affected by cancer. We all have our own stories of how we’ve been affected and we now unite to forever honor the memory of Becky and to provide emotional and financial support to those in the Marian Catholic Community.