Katie Merritt, who created the wildly successful BendFilm Festival in 2004, has begun treatment for breast cancer. It's an unusually aggressive form of the disease which demands an equally strong therapeutic response. Doctors began chemo in late May; it's scheduled to last all summer and into the fall. Merritt, 51, then faces a double mastectomy and radiation therapy.
Her older sister Martha, along with longtime friend Molly Kreuzman, started a GoFundMe campaign to raise an estimated $75,000 for both living and medical expenses. Donations will go directly toward paying monthly bills as well as things like groceries, childcare and prescriptions. Merritt, who has a nine-year-old son, will likely have to suspend her real estate career for at least a year.
Merritt has no shortage of fans and supporters in Bend. "She's endearingly irreverent," says Kreuzman. "She speaks her mind, and even when she's saying things you don't necessarily want to hear, she says them with such a tongue in cheek twinkle in her eye that you still listen. That's part of how BendFilm Festival became so successful. She convinced everyone."
Kreuzman adds that one of Merritt's best qualities, besides the fact that she's helped so many filmmakers get started, is how she treats everyone equally. "The paperboy is as important as the mayor," she says. "It's becoming more and more of a rare quality [in people]. It's something that I really cherish about her as well. She doesn't care what you have. She cares who you are."
The online effort is entitled "Help Katie Conquer Cancer!" The website will post regular updates on her progress.
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