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This is a great article written by John Grogan following Katie's funeral.

 Posted on Tue, Aug. 19, 2003


John Grogan | Girl, 4, offers hope by way she lived

Inquirer Columnist

At Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Doylestown yesterday, a small white casket sat at the edge of the altar, its lid opened to show the frail body of a young fighter.

Her name was Katie Ann Duffin, and she would have turned 5 this week. Instead, about 300 people gathered on a lovely summer's day to say good-bye to this little girl who faced down cancer with a bravery and optimism seldom seen in anyone of any age.

All morning long, the people came. They filed past in a long, slow procession, each one greeted with a hug from Katie's parents, Paul and Terry Duffin of Doylestown. Many who came had known the girl. Others had never met her but felt they somehow knew her, too.

It was because of her Web site, www.katieduffin.com, which faithfully chronicled in weekly journal entries her long battle against what she called the blob growing inside her.

The Web site was written in her voice by her uncle, Hugh Saunders, to capture her fighting spirit. It started as a way to keep friends abreast of her medical progress, but it grew into something bigger. From across the country, countless strangers logged on to follow her struggle to survive, many of them leaving her messages of support in her online guest book.

Her story begins six months after her birth on Aug. 23, 1998, when doctors discovered a golf-ball-size malignancy beneath her left shoulder. They operated twice and subjected her to six rounds of chemotherapy. As Katie's journal states, "All was great until four years later, almost to the day."

In March, the blob returned. And this time it had long tentacles that reached up along her spine. And that's where Katie's weekly entries begin:

March 11: "The doctors told us that the golf-ball thing is back again near my shoulder and neck... . They decided that they would have two operations, one from the back and one from the front."

March 22: "I am feeling OK and even asked my mom if I could go to school yesterday. It took a little convincing but she let me go. I had a great time. I am not going to let this thing slow me down."

April 6: "Tomorrow is the big day. The doctors will be giving me that 'funny juice' again to make me go to sleep so they can go in and get the rest of the golf ball out of my shoulder."

April 7: "Great news!... Dr. Greg just came in and told my mom and dad that the [spinal] fluid is clear - no bad cells in my spine. I think this time mom and dad were crying because they were happy, and that makes me happy."

And so the entries go, swaying from the dire to the mundane, through surgeries and radiation treatments and chemotherapy and nausea and morphine drips. And always there is Katie's voice, the voice of a little fighter unwilling to throw in the towel.

May 23: "I told [the doctor] he is not dealing with the ordinary patient. I am Katie Duffin, a mean lean fighting machine."

But by early July, Katie was unable to keep food down and was put on a feeding tube. She was dogged by constant headaches. And in mid-July came very bad news: The malignancy had spread to her brain. "OK, guys, now is the time to really rally the troops and give me as many prayers as you can muster," one entry states.

July 21, the final entry written in her voice: "I am definitely hanging in there."

The last entry, signed by her parents and older brother, Paul Jr., was logged Aug. 12: "Hello everyone. This is the update that we knew was coming but we never wanted to write. Today at 9:30 p.m., Katie finally allowed the angel to take her hand and show her the way to heaven."

At yesterday's Funeral Mass, the Rev. Charles Hagan noted that this remarkable girl's short life "touched so many thousands of people," many of them through her Web site. And to each she offered a message.

"She never, ever, ever gave up hope," the priest said. "This is her legacy to us."