“Hi honey, it’s me (insert family member), X (insert loved one) went to the doctor and they found cancer…” For one fleeting moment a million thoughts of hope run through your head, but the sobs on the other end bring you back to reality, and, BOOM there it is, the train as it hits your chest and you fall to the ground.
I guess January 18th was our day. And for me, it was my mom calling to tell me it was Kareen.
How does looking for a cause of shoulder pain become colorectal cancer??? And how, in a matter of days and a few tests, does it go from “just” that (as if there is a “just” when referring to cancer) to STAGE 4 cancer that has already spread to her lungs, lymph nodes and liver???
She needs our help!
Kareen is a loving wife and mother of three beautiful children, a protective big sister and caring daughter, niece, aunt and best friend… and she is so many more things to everyone in her life. Just over two weeks ago she received the hardest news she ever has. At 38 years old and 18 weeks pregnant, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and within just one week, and several tests and scans, they found it had already spread to her lungs, lymph nodes and liver, and classified it as stage 4.
She was at 20 weeks in her pregnancy this week, but sadly at about 2:00 this morning she went into labor and miscarried her baby girl, Georgia Renee. When the diagnosis of cancer first came, there was talk of waiting until Georgia was at 25 weeks to take her via C-section and then begin Kareen’s chemo treatments. But, with the finding that her cancer was already so aggressive, the doctors made the decision that treatment would not wait. As soon as she has recovered some from the miscarriage, the doctors will continue on with her treatment plan and begin administering Folfox chemotherapy today. The treatment will be administered for 48 hours and then she will recover for 12 days and the cycle will begin again, this will continue for up to 12 cycles.
It Takes a Village
The financial burden that comes with treating cancer is so much more for a family than just the doctors and medicines.
While we believe insurance will help cover most of her treatments, there are so many more expenses that the coming months and years will bring, that her family just can’t bear alone. Specialists for her to get the best care possible, clinical trials or alternative medicines, travel to and from treatments, hotel stays for her husband Billy and her three children Grace, John Thomas, and Jameson, to be with her and give her all the support possible. Home health aides, assistance with day care and household cleaning, so she can rest and her husband can continue to work with the least loss of income.
Kareen’s husband Billy had been laid-off for the past couple months due to his employer being sold to another company, so heading into this, finances are already extremely tight for their family. Just recently he found a job, but with only having been there a few weeks, he wasn’t even able to catch up from the past months without income, before having to take time away unpaid to get Kareen to hospital and doctor’s visits. Throughout Kareen’s coming treatments we knew any time away from work would continue to add to their financial shortfall, unfortunately his new employer chose to let him go for needing to take time off so early on. Between visits to the hospital and taking care of their children, he has been on a few interviews already and we are hopeful he will get work again and his employer will be understanding of the situation.
The initial goal may just be the beginning, but we want the security of home, added financial burdens of cancer treatment, and day-to-day necessities to be the last thing Kareen is worrying about as she fights this terrible disease.
A Selfless Shepheard
If you know Kareen, or if you met her for even the briefest time, you know she is always looking out for everybody else’s needs before her own. She makes sure everyone around her is comfortable, has whatever they need, and puts herself out for the sake of others, before ever considering her own needs. Even the day she was diagnosed, always the caretaker, her first thing was to say, “don’t come”. Not because she didn’t want or need us there, but because she knew the drive was far and she was more concerned for putting us out, than for her own need to have us close. Selflessness and generosity towards others may be some of her best qualities, but in times like this can also prove to be her greatest frailty. In knowing this, we must provide her the support and assistance she is most in need of, because she would never ask it of us.
A lifelong Fighter
For most of her life, Kareen has been given the hardest battles to fight. It’s almost as though she is here to be a testament of faith, strong will, and courage to everyone she meets, and to teach us all how to fight whatever bad comes our way. Because with every battle she’s been given, she has fought head-on, relentlessly, without wavering or backing down.
Kareen was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease around the age of 15, and if you are not familiar with Crohn’s I urge you to look it up. It is a chronic, incurable, and at times painfully debilitating disease. For more than 20 years she has lived with this heinous disease. If you met her on the street, or are a new friend, you would never know the battle she is fighting on the inside; severe pain, abdominal swelling, cramping, bleeding, and deterioration of the intestines and colon. Over the last 20+ years she has seen more doctors and specialists, taken more medicine, and spent the night in more hospital beds than two dozen of the most average 85 year olds.
When Kareen was 18 our family was involved in a terrible car accident with a semi-truck, and as luck would have it, she bore the brunt of injuries. Broken ribs, collapsed lung, fractured pelvis to name a few. She spent weeks in the hospital and from there it was months of surgeries and physical therapy. With each day she pushed herself to become stronger, exercised her lungs to be able to breathe normal again, pushed her body to get herself out of the wheelchair and into a walker, from the walker to crutches, and eventually she was walking on her own again and then running.
After being given her cancer diagnosis, nearly her first words were “I’m going to fight this”… “I have three children and another on the way, I’m not going anywhere, I WILL be here to raise them” And as matter-a-fact as most of us can only recite our phone number, she declared war on her new enemy.
I am certain it is not possible to prepare yourself for a fight with cancer, but Kareen has been through the trials and is now going to fight the hardest battle of her life.
The Long Road Ahead
Kareen is just beginning to take the first steps on this long and arduous journey, and already the hardships have grown. But, with the support of friends, family and generous strangers she will have the strength to conquer this battle. From day one, she has been made acutely aware of how fast diagnoses can broaden or treatment plans can accelerate or change entirely. With your help she will have the means to stay strong and focused on healing, and she can conquer this disease and live to see her beautiful children grow into adults.
Those wishing to offer support to Kareen and her family in addition to, or in lieu of financial support, please contact me. The family could use and would appreciate any gift/gas cards, care packages, meals, etc. There are T-shirts and bracelets being sold for fundraising as well as a BBQ planned for the summer.
Prayers, letters and cards of encouragement and love, and thoughts and wishes for healing and strength are all greatly appreciated!
Contact me through her Facebook page for the address to send/deliver items:
Cards, letters, etc. can also be sent to my store to be delivered to the family:
Murray & White
5416 N Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640
- Scott Slattery
- Ryan Slattery
- Hilary Swan
- Mary Beth Murray
Organizer and beneficiary
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