Eight months ago News Center 7’s Kate Bartley walked away from the job she said she “truly loved” here at Channel 7.
This was the only TV station where she’s ever worked and where she met her husband, Andy.
He worked behind the scenes as a news producer and executive producer.
Months later, people still ask, “Why did Kate leave?”
Her graceful exit had everything to do with family.
For almost six years, Kate, Andy and their family have battled a disease doctors tell them they will not win.
But they keep fighting every day, hoping Andy lives long enough so their son Charlie will have his own memories of his father.
Pictures of Kate, Andy and Charlie hang on the walls of their home, capturing moments in time and the true essence of love: family.
One picture shows Charlie was a baby in a Superman outfit.
While he started out in this world as Superman, he’d rather be Spider-Man now.
It’s a super-sized love right now that gets this family from one day to the next.
“Andy is such a good super hero,” Kate said. “You are such a good super hero story.”
To truly understand the love that created Charlie, you have to start at the beginning of a not quite love at first sight story at Channel 7.
“One of our managers, she introduced us,” Andy said. “Yes, she introduced us together, But Kate doesn’t remember that actually happening. You meet a thousand people.”
It was some time later when Kate was filling in on the anchor desk on Labor Day morning in 2010 when Andy finally got her attention.
“He was the voice in my ear because he was producing,” Kate recalled. “‘I’m going to need you to be active.’ Who is this guy telling me what to do at 5 in the morning? And then I married him.”
They spent the next few years getting to know each other. Everything was perfect.
“He’s always felt like home to me,” Kate said.
But then, at 7 a.m. April 23, 2014, they were sleeping.
“It sounded like he was gasping for breath,” she said. “I thought he was having a nightmare.”
What was happening went on for five minutes.
“I’m not trying to be dramatic, but that was the worst day of my life,” Kate said.
While Andy was sleeping, he had a seizure.
“I never knew what they felt like,” Andy said. “I don’t remember any of those parts.”
Medics got Andy to the hospital and doctors started tests on his brain.
“Immediately they came back and saw there was a big tumor above his left ear,” Kate said. “I said, ‘What does that mean?’ [They] said life is about to get really hard. I think back, it was so true.”
An MRI found a second tumor up front, closer to his forehead.
“He was diagnosed as grade two astrocytoma,” Kate said.
Doctors removed as much of the bigger tumor as they could.
“When thy came in and said it was brain cancer, I was ready to fight,” Kate recalled. “‘Tell us what the odds are.’ They said 1%. We’re going to be 1%. We were going to do everything.
“It never occurred to me there was zero; there was no chance. I was totally unprepared for them to say there are no odds of survival.”
A few months later in August, Andy proposed.
On July 4, 2015, they married at Carillon Historical Park.
Andy felt pretty good and looked like a normal, healthy 30-year-old.
In 2016, he started a year-long clinical trial at Duke University that included radiation and chemotherapy.
Every few months Kate and Andy would drive or fly to North Carolina to see his doctors.
At Duke, he had a second surgery in 2016.
“I feel fortunate I get to be a witness to this,” Kate said. “I feel honored that I’ve got to be next to him.”
In 2017, Andy had a violent seizure that dislocated his shoulder at work.
In 2018, he had a third brain surgery.
Kate kept fighting for Andy.
“He is so much tougher than I am physically,” she said. “The stuff I have seen them put in him and take out of him, I couldn’t do it.”
The larger tumor kept growing and Andy continued with chemo.
“It seems like such a waste of the universe to throw away such a wonderful human,” Kate said. “I will never understand that.”
Earlier this month Kate and Andy returned to Duke.
Doctors found three new tumors.
“He is the bravest human I’ve ever known,” Kate said of her husband.
Kate has always said Andy’s brain is her favorite thing about him.
He’s confident, witty and smart.
But now, the cancer has slowed his speech.
“I don’t know if I’d still be alive if it was not for Kate and Charlie,” Andy said. “If Kate was not in my life, I think I’d be gone.”
As Andy struggles to put his thoughts into words, more and more these days he pulls his words from his heart.
“My goal, I want my son to remember me,” Andy said. “He’s just turned 3.
“He can remember the two of us talking and I will always remember the two of us talking whenever it happens. I just hope I can hang on long enough and we can be together long enough without someone telling him about me.”
Andy and Kate will keep fighting the cancer, the disease in his brain, not knowing how much time he has left.
“I want it to hurt if he leaves,” Kate said. “I want it to cause a rupture in the universe. I want Charlie, even if it hurts sometimes, to remember him as much as he can, organically.
“No matter what, I will live my life to the cause of preserving his memory any way I can with his son. If he could know how bad Andy wanted him, to be with him.”
But until that day comes, every second and every minute they live in the now as a family.
“I feel lucky,” Kate said. “For six years, every single time I got sad I could tell him I loved him.
She hopes that by sharing their story, it can serve as a reminder to enjoy every moment possible.
“I don’t want people to feel sorry for us,” she said. “We don’t want pity. But if someone saw this and it made them not look at their phone, you know, and play with their kids or just tell somebody they love them. That’s all I want to do forever, is play with Charlie and tell Andy I love him.”
With juggling everything at home, Kate works fulltime in city government as the communications director for a Dayton suburb.
Her schedule allows her to be home in the evenings with Andy and Charlie, where they can all be together for bath and story time before bed.
That might all sound simple for some, but at this stage in life, it means everything to Kate and Andy.