Not everyone gets called a hero by her little sister.
But when Rebecca Landi’s admission into the University of California, Berkeley, was riding on an essay, she decided to write about her older sister Catie.
“When they were little, they were not always on the same page, but the older they get, the closer they become, and their father passing made them very close,” Melissa Landi, Catie and Rebecca’s mother, said. “She wrote about how Catie is her hero because she’s so dedicated and hardworking — she really is our family hero.”
Catie Landi, a trainer for the Ohio State women’s soccer team, has been fighting triple-positive breast cancer since October 2018. During the past year, she’s undergone six cycles of chemotherapy and one month of radiation.
The rigorous treatment cycle has paid off, as she’s been in remission since April and is taking a new drug in hopes of keeping the cancer away.
“I was scared, but I was just glad that it was me instead of my younger sister or my mom — I’m very close with them,” Catie Landi said.
It isn’t the Landis’ first encounter with health misfortune, as the father of the family Christopher died of kidney failure in 2007. The tragedy made the three women incredibly close, Melissa Landi said. Catie Landi was 13 years old when her father passed and would be diagnosed 11 years later.
“I think I just went through every emotion there was upon her diagnosis,” Melissa Landi said. “The first was probably anger because the poor kid lost her dad when she was 13, and now to be diagnosed with this, it just didn’t seem fair. Later, I felt pride because of how strong she was through the whole thing and her positive attitude and never letting it interfere with the other aspects of her life, which gave her so much joy.”
Athletic training was one of those aspects.
Catie Landi first fell in love with training at Sabino High School in Tucson, Arizona, and dreamed of earning a degree in the field — specifically at Ohio State. This summer, she was assigned to train the Buckeye women’s soccer team.
She attended every practice, scrimmage and game she was allowed to, on top of attending her own treatments.
“I scheduled my treatments around their practices, so I would have a day of practice and then go to treatment afterward,” Catie Landi said. “[The team] really inspired me to keep my chin up and to always keep fighting for what I wanted to do. I kept telling myself, ‘Get better so you can help them get better.’”
Catie Landi helped multiple athletes during the season, from sophomore forward Kayla Fischer, who had a head injury, to taping ankles during warmups. Yet no one on the team knew of her illness — they found out on the team’s annual Pink Night, which honors survivors and those currently with breast cancer.
“I just didn’t want to complain because I always thought, ‘Well, maybe someone is going through something worse than me,’ and I didn’t want to take away from what they were doing in practice,” Catie Landi said.
Katie Walker, a certified athletic trainer and head of Catie Landi’s division, was amazed by her perseverance and humility and believes athletic training was a saving grace for Catie.
“I think she had to develop a relationship with them before she could tell them, but if she can help someone else by sharing her story, she wants to do that,” Walker said. “Any time that you’re doing what you enjoy and what you want to do for your life is a good distraction from other things going on.”
Walker also praised Catie Landi for her mature and responsible attitude about her illness. When Walker was assigned to work with Catie, she said she was immediately struck by her commitment to the position amid her health struggles.
“I was impressed by her forward planning and her ability to continue on with clinicals and school while going through those treatments,” Walker said. “She gained a lot of my respect in that. I just thought it was pretty impressive of how put together she was in her planning and her dedication to the program and to her education and not allowing this disease to inhibit her ability to continue with the program and what she wants to do.”
Even on this difficult journey, Melissa Landi has seen her daughter become stronger from it. She believes that it has put everything into perspective for not only Catie, but the family.
“It’s just given her a lot of confidence because she feels like, ‘If I can handle this, I can handle anything,’” Melissa Landi said. “I tell her all the time she’s my hero because of everything she’s been able to accomplish with the hurdles that have been put in her way.”
While the admissions department at Berkeley accepted Rebecca Landi, the crux of her essay remains true — Catie Landi is a hero to her family and many around her.
Melissa Landi and Walker both view Catie as an inspiration and praise her strength and humility during such a challenging time.
“She’s telling people to follow their dreams — she wants to be an athletic trainer and she’s not letting anything get in the way of that,” Walker said.