I’ve been choosing the title for my blog post from one of the Timehop quotes, but this time it’s from a new friend who joined my club, by losing her son to cancer recently. She saw a sign with that quote on her way home from the hospital and got some comfort from it. It makes me so sad when I hear about another family going through this kind of loss. We watch our children fight so hard, and endure so much. We do everything we can to help them, and our friends and our families give us all so much support and love and so many prayers. And then we lose them, our beautiful children, who have so much potential. Having cancer changes the kids. The ones I have seen have a different perspective – they know that life is precious, and they want to give back. Karen had many organizations she supported – she volunteered, she walked, she raised money. She joined a sorority at Drexel that was service-based. These pediatric cancer patients accomplish so much, and could have done so much more, if only they had survived. One of Karen’s doctors recently left Hopkins to go to work for a pharmaceutical company. I told him that the pressure is on him, to help the kids, because we’re losing too many, and he can’t let them down.
We continue our list of “firsts” without Karen. Mother’s Day was dreary and soggy. There was a gift (from Karen?) of not going to Virginia for soccer at 7:30 AM, which was nice. There were also some delicious chocolate covered strawberries, which Karen would have loved. And there were some Timehop memories discussing last year’s Mother’s Day gift, and Karen’s input into it.
We all went to the Camp Sunrise Gala, which is their biggest fundraiser. They have the Gala every other year, and it was on Karen’s calendar on her phone. Things like that make me sad – the events I know she wouldn’t have missed, given even half a chance to be there. Lots of her friends were on the Gala committee, and I’m sure she would have been, too. (That’s when I feel the worst about myself, that I haven’t stepped up and done some of what she would have.) It was really nice to see some of the doctors and nurses that were there. When you see these people every week, sometimes multiple times a week, they really are more than just your caregivers, and you miss them when that ends (abruptly!) I cried a little bit (of course!) with a few people, but overall it was a nice evening with good friends.
Susie and Matt went to Sunsibs, the weekend camp for the siblings of the patients. Susie has gone for 6 years now, even though it is a major conflict with a soccer tournament every year. I know a couple of people who had a hard time with the idea of going back as counselors without Karen there. We went on Saturday, and did a castle cake activity with the kids, in memory of Karen. She never celebrated ANYTHING without a castle cake. I think the kids enjoyed it. There were a lot of variations on the travel/wonders of the world theme. My sister came down from PA to help me bake the cakes we needed for the 8 cabins – that’s a lot of cake!
We planted some new flowering trees around our house. They will bloom in the spring, mostly with pink flowers. Karen took so many pictures of the flowers we have, and the trees in bloom. One of the new trees is visible from her bedroom window, and I’m looking forward to seeing it bloom next spring. She loved being outside, surrounded by nature, and I know she would have enjoyed choosing the trees and where to put them, and then watching them grow. I will take good care of them so I can think of her when I look at them.
There was an activity at the elementary school where the kids went (and I still volunteer) that involved painting rocks for a rock garden. One of the staff members asked me if I wanted to paint a rock for Karen, and I asked her if she could do one instead. One day recently, she took me outside to see the finished product, and I had to guess which rock was Karen’s. So much pressure!!! But it turned out to be easy, and it’s beautiful! Karen really was a ray of sunshine.
Some of Karen’s friends came over the other day and spent the afternoon with us. It was wonderful to see them and catch up on what’s happening with them. We played cards, which Karen loved, and talked about the time they spent here with her, and how much we all miss her. Amanda gave us the beautiful picture she drew of Karen’s face, in treatment and out, all framed. For now, it’s here in the living room with the other pictures that I look at (and talk to, most days) and will eventually hang up somewhere.
A lot of the Timehop memories right now are the text messages Karen sent and received last year about her last relapse. There are messages about having to cancel her dream trip, and about starting treatment (again!) and signing consent forms. It makes me cry so much more, to read them and know how it ended, but at the same time I smile as I read them and see how much love and support she got from so many friends and family members. I miss her every day.
I’m Karen. I was originally diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in August 2004 when I was 10 years old. When I was working on my college and scholarship application essays two years ago, I wrote about my journey. Although it was a rough few years, it became such an influential part of my life that I can’t, and wouldn’t want to, imagine my life without having had cancer. I called it the worst best thing that ever happened to me.