Former Moorhead woman's public cancer fight endsMINNEAPOLIS – Kathryn Rae (Kate) Hunt Mortenson was a wife and the mother of a 5-year-old son. She had a job, volunteered at a food shelf and led a women’s group. She lived a happy, productive and ordinary life and was known by friends, co-workers and family members as the woman who always had a kind and encouraging word.
By: Tim Harlow, Star Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS – Kathryn Rae (Kate) Hunt Mortenson was a wife and the mother of a 5-year-old son. She had a job, volunteered at a food shelf and led a women’s group. She lived a happy, productive and ordinary life and was known by friends, co-workers and family members as the woman who always had a kind and encouraging word.
What made the 37-year-old extraordinary was that in the throes of illness she still found a way to inspire others.
Four years ago after she was diagnosed with paraganglioma, Hunt Mortenson started a Caringbridge Web site on which she frequently wrote on everything from exposing herself to radiation, preaching patient advocacy and traveling across the world to get experimental treatments to fight the rare form of cancer in which tumors grow on vital body parts and invade and destroy the surrounding tissue. She died Aug. 23 at her home in Minneapolis.
Hunt Mortenson’s story, replete with tales of frustration with doctors who dismissed her case for two years before she received a proper diagnosis and her daily fight to stay alive to spend one more day with her husband, Brett, and son, Grant, captivated thousands; people from all 50 states and 15 countries on six continents have left 500,000 messages on her site. Hunt Mortenson’s ordeal even caught the attention of President Barack Obama, who sent the family a card, said her nephew Conor O’Phelan.
Her positive messages encouraging people to stand up for family and for what they believe and to take care of themselves and those around them made her an “everyday hero,” O’Phelan said.
“Meeting Kate is a life-changing experience for most people,” said longtime friend Karin Cebulla. “She was like a magnet. She drew you in. She was genuine and sincere, and she cared about you as if you were the only person in the room.”
Hunt Mortenson graduated from Moorhead High School, where as student council president she promoted work with the United Churches for the Homeless, sponsored a food drive and initiated a walk-a-thon for the Minnesota Cancer society. In 1990, she was named the Moorhead YWCA Woman of the Year. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in 1994 from the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. She worked for eight years at ADP in the Twin Cities, most recently as a sales director.
Her concern for others began young. As a child, she would give canned goods to the homeless and others less fortunate than herself, her nephew said. It’s something she continued to do in her adult life, serving as a longtime volunteer at Second Harvest Heartland in the Twin Cities. Hunt Mortenson also led a women’s group in which members would address a variety of life topics and engage in volunteer service.
Hunt Mortenson's Caringbridge page:
The Star Tribune originally published this article Aug. 27.