The salutatorian of the Port Aransas High School class of 1998, outstanding athlete and graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, on Friday lost her battle against cancer.
It was not the only battle she fought, but one of the few she did not win.
Until she was a young teen, Christie lived as the daughter of a single parent. Her mother worked mostly in kitchens in Port Aransas and area restaurants.
But Christie had dreams, and her intrinsic motivation led her to establish goals for herself and find ways to meet them. Her search found an encouraging and loving community willing to reach out to her.
So, Christie decided to make a life of her own. She stayed with several families in Port Aransas until she found a more permanent home with Jimmy and Juanita Slagle, who, when she was in eighth grade, became her guardians.
Christie's high school career was a dream come true. She played basketball on a winning team. She was an honor student and graduated as salutatorian of her class. She was accepted at The University of Texas at Austin, and she found a way to pay for it (hard work!).
So, off to Austin she went. There she found a new community of friends as she maintained contacts with her Port Aransas friends. All was well as she focused on graduation. Then she learned she had a rare form of cancer.
Neuroblastoma, when it strikes, usually occurs in Caucasian male infants. Christie was half African American. She was female. She was 22.
She'd fought the odds before, and she'd fight them again. She sought mainstream and experimental treatments. She did not give up. Nine years after she graduated from high school, including five years of fighting the cancer, she graduated in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology and a minor in applied learning.
But the cancer was bigger than she was, and last Friday, it finally won.
We've lost Christie to cancer, but what she gave us will never be lost. It's her message. By the age of 28, Christie had accomplished more against more odds than many twice her age because of her attitude, her approach to any task, to her life: Yes, I can!
She's left a message to every young person who knew her, reads or hears about her. That message is: Yes, you can!
Mary Henkel Judson is editor and copublisher of the South Jetty. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.