THOMASVILLE- Sunday evening, guests gathered at Trinity Anglican Church Parish Hall to hear from local author, Katie Joy Duke, and get their copy of her latest memoir Still Breathing: My Journey with Love, Loss and Reinvention signed. During the gathering, Duke took the opportunity to give an inspirational speech about finding meaning and purpose even during tragedy. 

Duke recounted the loss of her daughter, Poppy, who was born stillborn at full term and the grief that followed her during that time. 

“If we let it, grief will teach us things we never thought imaginable,” Duke said. “That’s why I want to talk about meaning-making.” 

Duke questioned how can one write their own story, instead of choosing to let their story define them. 

“We search for meaning, and then we tell our story,” she explained. “That’s what I’ve done and that’s what I would like to inspire you all to do.” 

Duke went on to discuss her recent breast cancer diagnosis. 

In March, Duke said she got her first mammogram after discovering a lump on her breast, while reading her daughter Moxie a bedtime story. 

“I was immediately concerned,” she said. “I was pretty sure it hadn’t been there the day before… so after kissing my daughter goodnight I recorded my worst fear, ‘I think I have cancer.’” 

Duke said after multiple tests, the oncologist confirmed it was cancer and it had moved into her sternum. 

“I heard her words, but they weren’t computing,” she said. “The truth of her words landed right on my heart.” 

Duke shared that while this was a scary time in her life, she took the reins and actively searched for meaning, just as she did when her daughter passed. 

“I believe my cancer was a messenger,” she said. “I saw so many times the Universe sending me a message that something bigger was at play.” 

As time went on, Duke said her resolve weakened and her body was physically hurting. 

“I struggled,” she said. “My hair fell out, my body felt torn up on the inside, my bones ached and my ability to keep up came to a complete halt and I was forced to slow down.” 

During the stillness, Duke said she reminisced on her life and how she had lived it so far. It was during this time, she reflected on her perfectionism. 

“I failed to see that my incessant need to be good enough actually created a barrier between me and the boundless love that flows freely from the Universe,” she said. 

Duke then explained how cancer is much like her perfectionist thinking. She compared the cells that mutate because “they just can’t help themselves” to her constant need for control, which has crippled her off and on for most of her life. 

Duke said making meaning of this transformed the way she saw the future. 

“I imagine that this cancer happened for me and is moving through me,” she said. “The power is for us to decide.” 

Duke concluded by challenging everyone to look inward at themselves and find meaning in their life, before embracing it and sharing it with the world.

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