The following tribute was read during Whitney's Celebration.
WHITNEY’S ROCKY START - Whitney was born on June 24, 1988 in Oakland, California. She came into this world with great difficulty. After delivery, her heart stopped beating and doctors tried to revive her for 25 minutes. Miraculously, Whitney’s will to live took over and her heart started beating again. Unfortunately, all of the trauma with her birth had caused its share of damage. Whitney was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and her family was told that she'd never walk, talk, or even hold her head up. But Whitney was a fighter. She quickly surpassed the medical professional’s expectations. Whitney and her mom, Lisa and Dad, Doug, never gave up. Together they pushed and fought for Whitney to become an independent, capable adult, with a love for everyone.
WHITNEY’S LIFE - Whitney was always very involved in her community. She graduated from Oskaloosa High School in 2008 and was involved in 4-H, FCCLA, basketball, and the Heart of America Morgan Horse Club, She worked at Lonnie’s Recycling Center for 6 years and at Nelson’s Landing in Leonardville since 2013. She traveled with her grandparents to horse shows around the country, blessing the lives of everyone she met.
Whitney completed Firefighter I training and served on the Rural, Sarcoxie and McLouth/Union TWP volunteer fire departments in Jefferson County. She was an expert accountability officer and enjoyed working controlled burns. Whitney always drew a laugh after the Mclouth firefighter meetings by asking, “Can I turn the tv on and watch Dancing With the Stars now?”
Whitney was a huge fan of KU Women’s Basketball. Her winning attitude and determination to succeed became an inspiration to the coaches and players. Whitney developed a special bond with Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson. She was a dedicated member of the women’s basketball booster club, The Hard Wood Club. Whitney helped with the KU Women’s Basketball summer camps, the Holiday Hoops Clinic, The Douglas County Special Olympics Clinic, and the Bonnie Henrickson Golf Tournament. Whitney loyally sat behind the Jayhawks bench for nearly 10 years cheering for the crimson and blue. She brought her family and friends to both home and away games. Whitney wanted the world to experience the excitement of KU Women’s Basketball. Win or lose Whitney never gave up. She continued to cheer for the KU Women to the bitter end.
WHITNEY’S BATTLE WITH LEUKEMIA - Whitney was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) on March 28, 2014. This is a very aggressive form of Leukemia. She was immediately rushed to the University of Kansas Medical Center to begin receiving in-patient chemotherapy treatments. On the night of her diagnosis Whitney selflessly told her mom, “Stop crying, we have to deal with this and go on. Think about those kids at St. Jude’s”. Whitney bravely persevered through two rounds of chemotherapy and whole body radiation before receiving a stem cell transplant on June 19th.
Things seemed to be progressing well. Whitney was gaining a little weight and was getting stronger. On Sunday, August 17th Whitney began feeling sick and told her mom, “I think the cancer is back.” Testing confirmed Whitney’s suspicions. The cancer was indeed back. Whitney began chemotherapy again. With only a 20% chance of the cancer going into remission, the odds were once again stacked against her. After two weeks of chemotherapy her liver began to deteriorate. Whitney lost her battle to Leukemia on September 22, 2014 at The University of Kansas Medical Center.
WHITNEY’S LIFE AN INSPIRATION - Whitney was a happy go-lucky, fun loving young lady despite the many struggles she had in her life. She had a way of making each person she met feel special. Whitney was one of those people that you meet and never forget. Her smile, laughter, and joy for life was contagious. She selflessly gave to others in everything that she did. Whitney approached life with a gentle spirit, positive attitude, and pure heart. The impact that she made on the lives of those she met is incomprehensible. People who’ve never personally met Whitney have forever been inspired by her strength of character, bravery, kindness, and passion for life. On the night she died over 50,000 people visited the TEAM WHITNEY facebook page.
Whitney’s fighting attitude has always been an encouragement and support to others who are having difficulties. Most recently she solicited donations for the Bonnie Henrickson Golf Tournament for breast cancer and the Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society all while fighting her own battle with Leukemia.
Whitney Van Dyke was truly an “angel in disguise.” The world is a better place because of her.