The legacy of Annalee Knight
Fifteen years have passed, time moved on for her five boys.
Starting with my young life and throughout adulthood I’ve been blessed to have met and known some remarkable people. Many left lifetime impressions on me. I was deeply touched by a young mother I met in the mid 1990s. A schoolteacher at DeQueen Elementary in Port Arthur, who along with her husband Chris, was raising five boys in Bridge City. I was instantly impressed with Annalee Knight’s faith and strength. She gave credit to God for any blessings and hung on to her faith when she was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer that is almost always fatal. In early January 1995, she started having dizziness, itching and jaundice. That was the first sign of her cancer that would start her fight for life. At first, a physician felt confident she could shrink the tumor, through hypothermia, enough to remove it. The procedure failed and disappointments came one after another. Her hopes would rise only to be met by a closed door.
Through it all, her spirits stayed high. Her constant uplifting and kindness was an inspiration to everyone around her. But it was her remarkable strength and fight that so impressed me. Annalee was a winner and never gave failure a thought. Only three percent of patients with cancer of the pancreas survive five years and five percent only one year. However, so sick she could barely function, she stayed positive and upbeat. Amassed, I once asked her how she could remain so full of faith and hope. “I give all credit to God for getting us this far along” she said, in early September, “Cancer doesn’t strike just one person, it affects the entire family.” She added, “I have to stay positive for them and the well being of our boys.”
Her father-in-law, Ernest Knight, arrived at their home each weekday morning at 5 a.m. to get the five boys ready for school. Christopher, Tony, T.J., Cody and Jamey, the youngest, who was only 9 years old when his mom was battling for her life.
Husband Chris, who worked at Dupont, was wonderful with the boys. Annelee’s ultimate hope was to buy as much time as she could so she could see the boys grow and get through school. All she ever wanted from the minute she learned she had cancer was to find an operation that would help her. She acknowledged that her cancer defied any reliable treatment and doctors had told her traditional surgery was not an option. Annalee would not accept that outcome.
With the help of God she said, she learned of a new procedure while watching a film clip on Channel 6 broadcast “Medical Breakthrough,” along with a toll free number. She immediately called Dr. Ramming in Lost Angeles and he agreed to the operation. The treatment, called Cryosurgery, destroys cancer cells by freezing them at minus 300 degrees. Their insurance company refused to pay for the $150,000 operation, calling it experimental. The doctor called it development surgery. He had been successful on six people whose tumors had disappeared.
Annalee believed God had solved her first major problem by making the family aware of the new surgical procedure. “I want the opportunity, even if it’s dangerous,” she said. “This is such a chance at life.” She was loved and supported by friends, St. Helen Church members and the entire community.
Annie flew to California. The doctor found that her x-rays exaggerated her sickness and even though he turned down 19 out of 20 patients for operation, he would do hers. The procedure was so new that CNN planned to film the operation. She was scheduled for surgery on Thursday, Sept. 25, 1995. She returned to California excited and full of hope. After arriving at Century City Hospital, in Los Angeles, more test were run and Dr. Ramming broke the devastating news to Annalee that nothing could be done. Her condition was inoperable. She flew home disappointed but still hopeful. She would continue to fight and pray.
If she ever had a negative thought she didn’t express it. On my last visit to her, along with Arlene Turkel, she expressed that regardless of what happened her boys were going to be all right. Her last words to us were, “don’t give up on God.” On this day, Feb. 23, 1996, 15 years ago, at age 46, Annalee Knight passed away.
Time has proven her right. She had instilled in her sons a fighting spirit, a determination that Chris helped cultivate in their upbringing. No mother could be prouder of how her sons turned out. No doubt she has smiled down on them through the years. Annalee would be a proud grandmother also, as many youngsters have come into the fold. In fact, a dozen, and another on the way.
Christopher lives in Cedar Park, works as head organic chemist at Analysys Inc. and is head coach at Park Lacrosse Club. He and Jennifer, who works at AT&T, have one child. Tony lives in Bridge City and is varsity track coach and teaches math. He and Shawn, who also works for BCISD, have three children. T.J. lives in Mesquite and is principle at Ferris Junior High, wife Selena is a liberian at the junior high, they have two children and one on the way. Cody works at Bridge City High School as cross-country coach and teaches biology. He and Lauren, who works for a local doctor, have three children. Jamey also lives in Bridge City and works at a local chemical plant. Wife, Kari is employed at LC-M High School. They have three children. All five boys have college degrees and are happily married. They remain very close as adults and pinch-hit for each other when the need arises, like baby-sitting, chores, etc. Annalee raised the boys to be close knit and they are raising her 12 grandkids to have this same kind of relationship with each other.
I was privileged to have known Annalee, a remarkable lady, who ran the race of life to win. In the end, God called her home but she left a strong foundation for others, the knowledge that you always play to win but accept the results. I had the honor of watching those boys growing into adult hood. I’ve watched their accomplishments with pride. Today, they are responsible parents who have many blessings to be thankful for. Annalee lives in all of the offspring. She is a proud angel today and I’m proud our paths crossed Down Life’s Highway. The Knights of Bridge City carry on remarkable traits, “Never give up on God.”