For those of you who don't know who Gracie Keeping is, she’s one of my closest friends and biggest inspirations. I met her almost 3 years ago at college and we used to do Drama classes together, she battled cancer for over 3 years and showed such strength and courage the whole way throughout. When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease back in December last year, my first thought was of Gracie. Seeing her battle Leukaemia only just after beating acute lymphoblastic lymphoma and managing to still stay so positive, proved to me that I can be strong and fight Crohn's just like she fights cancer. When I was staying in hospital for treatment over Christmas I sent Gracie some videos explaining my diagnosis and telling her that she made me strong and that I wanted to chat to her more because we hadn't properly talked in a few weeks. Sadly she never opened those videos because on the 3rd of January 2021 she passed away after losing her battle with Cancer. I hope she is up there and is proud of me for taking her strength and using it to help me with my illness.
Gracie was just the must beautiful soul inside and out and I know if she was still with us today we would be messaging about Harry Styles at 3am only a few wards away from each other in hospital. She taught me so much that I shall keep with me for the rest of my life and I wanted to share those lessons with everyone. She was one of those people who touched every single person that came across her and that is what I like to call;
‘The Gracie Effect’
1. Live life the fullest
Gracie was one of those people who always went full out in everything she did, she was a total perfectionist and her makeup looks are a total illustration of this. She went through so much at such a young age that she learnt life's not worth hesitation or worry, you should just live your life in the now and treat every single day like it's your last. Gracie knew I was a massive stress head and I always worried about the stupidest things like tiny pop quizzes in lessons or, if I will have enough time to get to my class early. She always used to tell me to just breathe because it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. She told me, ‘if it won't matter to you in 2 years then why stress’. It is one of the best pieces of advice that anyone has ever given me about my stress and it's important now more than ever because Crohn's is so badly impacted by stress.
2. Wear those multicoloured trousers and let people watch.
Gracie was known for her incredible fashion style, everyone would stare in awe and jealousy of how on earth she managed to pull off the eye-catching big earrings and stunning colourful trousers. She taught me to just wear what I want because as long as it makes me happy, it's no one else's place to tell me I can't do that. Since meeting her, I stopped caring what people think about me and I wore those crazy funky trousers and let people stare. And it feels amazing. Everyone looks at me when I put on my rainbow cargo trousers and that's what I like to call the Gracie Effect.
3. Follow your passions, don't let people tell you what to do.
It is because of Gracie that I am training in Musical Theatre and doing what I love everyday. I was supposed to be going to Uni to do psychology, but it just was not where my heart laid. I remember one day specifically I was outside my drama class in pieces, stressing over what to do about my future. She came and sat with me and we chatted for hours, I told her I just wanted to follow my dream but didn't think it was realistic and my family was worried and I just felt like I was losing myself. She told me Life is too short to worry about risk taking, you have to just do what you love and not worry about whether it will pay off. That night I withdrew my application for psychology, told my family it wasn't where my heart lay and applied to drama school. Now I am training at the conservatoire of my dreams and every day I feel so grateful that Gracie told me to just do what I love. Without her passion, I wouldn't be where I am today. Over the past few months I have been worrying about how I am going to keep pursuing Musical Theatre now that Crohn's is so bad, but I have decided I am still going to do what I love and show Gracie that she was right. I want to make her proud.
4. Don't stop laughing, it's the best medicine
I cannot recount the amount of times Gracie had me in fits of laughter on the floor, She lit up the room and brought my entire drama class together just with her smile. I will always associate her with happy memories and joking around. Whenever I feel down Tom tries to make me laugh and I see that as Gracie using her positivity through Tom to help me keep fighting. Sometimes my treatment can be hard and when my body doesn't respond its heart-breaking, so having a good old laugh and smile makes the whole world of difference.
5. Love makes the world go round
Gracie had so much love to go around, she loved so strongly and so passionately. Whether it was talking about how amazing her mum was, looking after one of her friends, or obsessing over how gorgeous Jake Gyllenhaal is, she gave everyone the most love she possibly could. Since getting Crohn's I have found that it is so easy to distance yourself and hide away from your old life and the people in it, but in true Gracie spirit I have learnt now to take all the love everyone has been supporting me with and give it back out into the world. I may not be always messaging people but I try my hardest to love everyone just as much if not more then I did before my diagnosis because it makes me feel better and helps them have a more positive day. Below are some of Gracie's incredible drawings, her love for creation and art was something so special, a talent that simply couldn't be taught.
An extra: Harry styles exist to life must be good!
Gracie and I were both OBSESSED with Harry Styles, well, the word obsessed is an understatement. Every time he posted on Instagram we would freak out and late night messages about how gorgeous he was were a common occurrence! She was such a beautiful artist in spent 2020 drawing some stunning pictures of Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson to sell on her Red Bubble. The middle picture below is of a drawing she was doing for me of Harry in a dress in her last few months of life, I do not know if she ever got the chance to finish it.
Gracie's legacy is thriving in me and everyone who knew her. Her funeral, fundraisers in her memory and cheque donations raised £9,626.88 for ‘Teenagers and Young Adults Unit’ at Southampton Hospital, in particular, the team on C6.
The Gracie Effect is something everyone will be impacted by and should be thankful for. She has steered my life in the direction I needed, and without her I don't know where I would be. She is so missed by everyone who knew her.
If everyone could be just a little more Gracie, the world would be a better place.
To Karyn, Simon, Jamie and Gracie’s Family, Thank you for raising such a beautiful young woman. She was a blessing to us all, I really hope you are all coping okay and know that Gracie will always be the incredible inspiration she was, she shall never leave our hearts. She is the most inspiring woman I have ever met, the type of person you look at and just are in complete awe, she made me want to be a better person in every possible way and I feel as though I would not be where I am today without her. She allowed me to have the confidence to wear what I want and not care what people think of me, she always gave me the best advice that I hold with me in everything I do. The Gracie Effect will stand the test of time because she truly was one unforgettable soul.
To Gracie, I still cant quite believe you are gone and the pain of knowing I cant ever give you just one last hug never leaves me but I promise you this; for the rest of my life I will do everything without hesitation, with love and to the best of my ability, just like you did. I will fight Crohn's just like you fought cancer so viciously. And I will stop at nothing to achieve what I want in life, I hope I make you proud. You will always remain in my heart my biggest inspiration. I love you so much and am so thankful that I got the pleasure of ever being your friend. I will see you on the other side of the stars. Miss you Groo.
Luce :) x