Katie Trimble was horrified of hospitals.
When she was 5 years old, her mother, Jan Trimble—who Katie refers to as Mama Jan—died from breast cancer.
About seven years later, Katie found herself refusing to walk into hospitals as her dad started chemotherapy in Madison.
Two weeks before her freshman year at Milton High School, Katie’s father, Bill Trimble, died from pancreatic cancer.
“Hospitals freaked me out, and I didn’t want to go anywhere near them,” Katie said.
But something changed.
This fall, Katie will attend Carroll University in Waukesha to study nursing.
Katie was among 270 students who graduated from Milton High School on Sunday.
“Katie is an amazing kid,” Milton High Principal Jeremy Bilhorn told The Gazette via email. “She is kind, compassionate and has an outlook on life that is really humbling.”
Her attitude inspired her peers to vote her “most likely to brighten your day.”
Katie wants to become a nurse so she can help people like her parents, she said.
Katie’s adoptive mother, Tracey Trimble, was shocked when Katie said she wanted to be a nurse, Tracey said.
“I was like, ‘Wait, really?’” Tracey said.
Tracey told her daughter she needed to be exposed to nursing before making a decision, so Katie shadowed nurses at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville and volunteered at the hospital.
St. Mary’s volunteer coordinator, Deb Thielen, said Katie stood out among volunteers because she always was looking for more to do and always came in with a smile.
Katie and Tracey for years thought Katie would pursue a career in music, Tracey said.
Katie plays clarinet, piano and guitar and sings. She has performed with Milton’s show choir teams and was the lead in last year’s production of “Hello Dolly.”
“She lights up a stage,” Tracey said. “She has many talents.”
Katie first took the stage as a child in a production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Indianapolis Repertory Theater, Katie said.
Katie, Bill and Tracey— who married Bill when Katie was 8 years old— lived in Indianapolis when Katie was young.
At their church in Indianapolis, Katie was known for talking to anyone who lent their ear.
“It was natural to me, I didn’t have a problem with it,” Katie said. “The other kids would be like, ‘Oh, you talked to Kevin the homeless guy. Doesn’t he smell?’ and I would be like, ‘No, I didn’t even notice that.’ I was genuinely having a conversation with him,” Katie said.
Katie hopes to one day live in a big city so she can be surrounded by a diverse population like she was in Indianapolis, she said.
The Trimbles moved to Milton, where Tracey grew up, when Katie was in eighth grade, Tracey said.
Katie tried out for the musical “Xanadu” immediately after moving, but Bill and Tracey secretly hoped she would not get a lead role, fearing the other middle school kids would be mean or jealous, Tracey said.
But of course, Tracey said, Katie got the lead.
Love and loss
Bill’s cancer escalated quickly. He died 18 months after being diagnosed.
“I was working so hard to not deal with it, which wasn’t emotionally healthy,” Katie said. “I was just like, ‘Focus on school. Be a freshman,’ and so I think that entire first year of school I didn’t really think about him, and I didn’t give myself time to grieve.”
Few of Katie’s friends knew of her parents’ deaths for the first three years of high school.
“I look back at it, I think, ‘Oh, everything was fine,’ but really, when I analyze it deep down, it wasn’t fine, but I was making it seem fine,” Katie said.
Katie’s losses made her grow up fast, she said. She had to learn how to not compare her grief to others’ problems and how to turn a negative into a positive.
“I think with losing Dad, it did make us stronger because we are all that we have in this home right now,” Katie said. “We have other family, but we both know what it is like to go through this thing.”