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Katherine Jo Lockwood lost battle with cancer

This weekend across the U.S. everyone is encouraged to be mindful of mothers whose children died serving our country. Locally, Jennifer Lockwood is one of those mothers.

Katherine Jo Lockwood was a perfectionist, according to her mother.

“She worked for about a year after she finished college, and she came to me one day and she said, ‘I just feel like if I don’t serve that I’ll regret it for the rest of my life,’” Jennifer Lockwood, said.

Katherine died of cancer while serving in the Navy. Her mother said the only thing Katherine regretted was that she couldn’t serve longer.

After joining the Navy, Katherine became a nuclear electronic technician. She met her husband, Michael Long II, who was also in the Navy, while she was in nuke school. The two were married before receiving assignments to the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower for Katherine and the submarine USS Montpelier for Long.

“Right after the first of the next year, she was really tired. She was sleeping a lot. She didn’t feel good. She went to medical and lo-and-behold she was pregnant,” Lockwood said.

Cooper was born in 2012 and you can tell when she talks about him, he holds a special place in his grandmother’s heart.

After giving birth to her son, Katherine volunteered to return to the fleet early from her maternity leave because there was an opportunity to serve on the same ship as her brother.

“They were in workups, getting ready to go out on deployment,” Lockwood said. “They were doing in-and-outs. Sometimes they’d go out and stay a couple of days, sometimes they’d stay a week or so, but she got a rash and went to medical onboard the ship.”

Lockwood said Katherine was told it was a heat rash.

Katherine did what the medical team told her. She used the cream they gave her, but then the rash started to spread.

“It was about two or three months before she saw a physician on board,” Lockwood said. “And, he said it wasn’t a heat rash, but that he didn’t know what it is.”

At port, Katherine saw a dermatologist who performed a biopsy but still couldn’t figure out what was causing the rash.

“Katie actually googled her symptoms and came up with a diagnosis on her own, and she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Lockwood said.

Over the next two and a half years, Katherine would undergo three different chemo treatments until she got to a point where she could have a stem-cell transplant.

Lockwood said the transplant almost killed her. Katherine spent three weeks in the intensive care unit.

“The first day she got out of the bed in the ICU, she walked the total length she needed to walk so she could get back to the transplant unit and get on with this,” Lockwood said. “The whole time, the part she regretted the most was not being able to do the job the Navy had trained her to do.”

After the transplant, Katherine was clear of cancer for about three months. Then she got what’s called refractory cancer or cancer that becomes resistant to treatment. At the same time, she was suffering from graft vs. host disease. Her body was rejecting the transplanted stem cells.

“The graft vs. host disease is a big part of the reason for her death,” Lockwood said. “It attacked her organs, and basically she went into multiple organ failure.

“It’s one of the possibilities they tell you about. You hear that, but I guess you don’t pay that much attention to it when it’s the treatment that’s supposed to make sure you don’t get sick again.”

Sunday, Sept. 27, is Gold Star Mother’s Day. It’s meant to remember the mothers who lost children who were serving in the armed forces and the sacrifice they made for this country.

“Sometimes, I kind of pull back, because mine ‘aren’t the same,” Lockwood said. “God put a mother who had been through a combat loss years before I needed her example.

“I think there’s a reason she came to work at the same place I was working. She would walk around every day, and I would think, how is she still breathing? How is she walking around after she’s lost her child?”

One thing Lockwood would tell other parents who suffer the loss of a child is to use the services that are available and understand that people grieve differently.

On post, Survivor Outreach Services works to help families who have lost a loved one who died while serving. You can contact them at 876-9579.

The annual dinner for Gold Star Mothers was canceled this year due to COVID-19, but Kerrie Branson, survivor outreach coordinator added “please keep Gold Star Mothers and Families in their thoughts and take a moment to remember their fallen loved ones who served our country so proudly.”

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