Stage 4.  Those are the words that still burn clearly in my ears days after we received the news. It was Sunday morning and we knew the week ahead would be a whirlwind of tests and appointments and plans, and, to be honest,  the cold was just getting to us.  So we packed up the kids and headed to an indoor water park.

We packed up the car and headed to Sandusky, Ohio for an overnight trip with our boys.  To our surprise, Dr .McLaughlin called.  It was Sunday morning, so the last thing we expected was a phone call with the results from the PET/CT scan.

mom and cancer survivor
My Beautiful Boys

hodgkins lymphoma survivor
Had to rock the cruise wear somewhere!

Our lives changed when we heard the number.  It was not expected.  Stage 4 was for someone else.  Someone not as healthy.  Crazy too because at that point I was being bombarded with questions from friends and family about how far the cancer had spread and how much treatment I would need. It’s as though others needed that number just as much we did.  But why?  Does the number give people a more realistic idea as to if I really have a fighting chance?  Does the number help others wrap their head around the seriousness of our situation.  Or maybe you just want that number, the statistic.

hodgkins lymphoma survivor
My man is amazing!

Here’s what we know.  I have Stage 4 Advanced Lymphoma.  I have a 10 cm tumor on my chest.  I also have cancerous lymphnodes above and below diaphragm.  There are lesions on my bones that cannot be ruled out either (making this case- stage four).  So what does that number mean to you?  Here’s the statistic that matters- I am 100% sure I am going to make it through (a little bruised and beaten) but I know without any doubt this battle will have a happy outcome.  That is the only number that even matters. Google what you will, but that statistic is not mine.  I will live, fight this,  beaten down I will come out of it feeling stronger and more confident than ever. 

As a coach, I spend a lot of time talking to my challengers about not being  tied to the number.  A number (in this case on the scale) can define you and hold you down because no matter how we progress, all we see is the number.  I feel the same way about cancer.  If I really want to move forward, to progress, instead of focusing on the number four, we focus on the way my body is reacting to the treatments- so far, so ok!

working out with cancer
Day After First Chemo Treatment- Lower Fix

But before I get into the treatments. I have to take a moment to share my gratitude to so many friends, family members, neighbors, survivors, and strangers.  I’ve received an overwhelming amount of support and love from so many, whether it is a phone call, dinner, a fund raiser, a surprise pedicure or a gift that just says, “Katy, You got this!” Thank you.

I can tell you that each act of kindness truly means the world to me, but one that means more to me that anything else, is the message I received from my Mimi.

You see, if you know me, you know that my beloved grandmother passed away four years ago.  Through her life, she was known to be the happiest, kindest woman on earth.  She touched the lives of everyone, and I mean everyone she met.  From a sales clerk to a cousin.  People loved, loved loved Mimi.  When she passed, a beautiful ladybug landed on my Grandfather’s shoulder as if to say,  “I’m here Lip!  Don’t forget to stir the sauce.” She loved ladybugs throughout her life- a sign of luck.

You see after receiving the news that we were looking at stage 4 cancer, I took the boys to the room and Mike took the cart to car.  I held my boys on the bed crying, and just said, “Mimi.  Please.  I just need a sign from you that I am going to be ok.  I just need to know that I will be here to watch my boys grow up.” I stopped, cleared my tears, and just gave it to God.

My Mimi!

In that moment, there she was.  Right beside me.  A beautiful ladybug.  I’ve never received such a beautiful gift.  Certainty.  Knowledge.  Comfort.  Hope.  Faith.  All in the presence of ladybug.

Katy Ursta


  1. C

    March 1, 2014

    I am in tears. You are so strong. And a reminder to me and everyone else to just put one foot in front of the other…no matter what you are facing, the only thing you can control is how you react. Hugs to you! You will beat this, I have no doubt!

  2. Deidra Penrose

    March 2, 2014

    OHHH KATY!!! Words cant describe how amazing you are!!! There is NO doubt in my mind you are going to be stronger than EVER here in a couple months!!!! I am SOOOO stinking proud of you! You are positive, and SOOOO inspirational!! You are meant to go through this because God knows how strong you are and doesnt give you anything you cant handle! I will be partying with you in Vegas soon and cant wait to celebrate with you!!!!! Love you!!! XOXO