Support For Karolyn

I have been sitting in front of my computer, staring at a blank screen trying to find the words to express and articulate the thoughts and feelings in my heart. My family and I have been heartbroken at the recent decline in my mother's health.  I've decided to reach out to the many people whose lives she's touched as many of you have asked how you can help, and to update you on her condition. I apologize in advance because I'm not very pithy when it comes to my mom.

A Decade of Battling
I've always known my mom is a warrior. She was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2007 and given a slim chance of survival. The news of my mom's cancer shook many people. My mom has taken such great care of her body her whole life. It was easy to think "if Karolyn's not safe, none of us are!" But cancer is certainly not a respecter of persons. Many of you know the great lengths she has gone through over the last decade fighting cancer. She used to get comments like "sorry but you don't look sick" from people all the time. My mom always made decisions about her health through prayer, and endless research. She was fortunate enough to beat cancer on multiple occasions but the financial cost was overwhelming. Without medical insurance or significant income, my mom lost her beautiful home. Her loss was my gain as my family had the privilege of having her in our home for a few years. I will forever be grateful for the time I was able to have her in my home. She was a bright light and a treasure to my children. Through various cancer treatments and ups and downs in her health over the years, she still always thinks first about other's and how she could serve people and bring comfort to those facing similar ordeals. It was not uncommon for her to meet people in grocery stores and give them a little hope or make them feel loved even in the 10 minutes waiting to check out. She often gave out her number and opened herself up to those with questions about her treatment protocols or needing an empathetic ear to talk to. 

It was certainly not a part of her retirement dreams to lose her home and her health, but she has always had a heart of gratitude for the blessings in her life. Her lifelong dream ever since she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was to serve a full-time mission once she retired. I distinctly remember sitting in her room with her the day she realized she would never be able to serve a full-time mission when her cancer came back. The tears in her eyes broke my heart. I gently reminded her that her life is a full-time mission! She is serving and helping others around her constantly. She will help people come to know the Saviour through her own testimony and acts of love and kindness. The last (real) vacation my mom took was before she was diagnosed with cancer. She and my dad went to Puerta Vallarta for what was supposed to be a week of pampering and lying by the pool. Instead, she wanted to get outside the resort and visit the surrounding villages and meet people. She took a bus ride into town where she met a young Mexican girl who told her about her life and her family. She learned about an orphanage and decided to go visit the orphanage. I'm surprised she didn't bring a child home but instead spent her vacation money buying the orphanage a new guitar and other supplies the children could benefit from. These experiences were all my mom could talk about when she got home. These are the kind of things that fill my mom's bucket of happiness. She is a fantastic mom, friend, wife, sister, and human being. 

The Past Year
In the past year my mom's cancer has progressed. Her initial breast cancer metastasized into her bones, her lungs and even an aggressive attack of melanoma on her scalp. It's a miracle she was able to grow her hair back. It seems unfair that someone who has never smoked a day in her life should have to deal with lung cancer.  The tumors in her lungs are making it difficult to breathe and cause a lot of coughing. The coughing leads to vomiting and has made it difficult to keep food down. This has progressively been a problem as she has tried to have phone conversations or even walk anywhere over the last year. In November I took her to Las Vegas to see Donny and Marie. This was a second attempt for her to see their show. My mom is a huge Donny and Marie fan and although I knew a car ride would be challenging, I wanted her to get out of the house and have a little fun.  Unfortunately the night of the show my poor mom got so sick she was vomiting and had to miss the show. I was heartbroken for her! She apologized and of course, was thinking of others. I was happy to spend time with her. Little did I know she would decline so rapidly. 

Current Condition
My mom has not really left the house other than a single doctor visit in the last couple of months. My sister did manage to take her to a movie about a month ago, but it left her exhausted. She was put on hospice about a week ago to finally help her manage her pain and give her the extra care she needs. Hospice is a scary realization, however, I've learned that it's really a fantastic organization designed to give extra home care and pain management.  Of course, we would love nothing but to see her get better and cancel hospice. The reality is, my mom believes she is not going to get better. She is under 24-hour care at this point either from family or friends, and a hospice nurse that comes as often as needed. 

I can't even say what this woman means to my family. The thought of losing our mother, sister, and the matriarch of our family is so incredibly painful. I have many days that I would like to just privately grieve and stay in bed and just cry. I only take comfort in the thought of seeing her again, and the joy she will have when she is not burdened with this body and the difficulties of this life. I know the life she has lived and her reward will be great. I know Heavenly Father loves her and that he is mindful of her. My prayers have shifted from those of healing to those of strength and comfort.  

I've set up this Go Fund Me account because many individuals have asked how they can help. Funeral expenses can be great and my mom was actively working on paying for hers before her health made working impossible. Living off a very small fixed income has put a lot of stress on my mom. She has lived her life frugally and has almost no debt, but if we can ease her financial stress and give her some peace in whatever time she has remaining I'm willing to ask. Those of you who know her know she would never ask this for herself. Any contribution big or small is much appreciated by my family.

I also ask for your prayers on behalf of my mother and my family. Any messages you would like to send to my mom would be much appreciated. I've always thought we should let people know how much we love and appreciate them while we still have the opportunity. Please feel free to send a message to her Facebook page or if it's easier a text message. I intend to set up a blog on her behalf that family and friends can freely share messages or stories with my mom. That should be done within the next few days and I will post it on her Facebook page. 

Last but not least, I need to say thank you! My mom's greatest treasure on this earth outside her family has been the good friends she has been blessed with. She has moved around a lot in Utah and although it's taken its toll, she has been in several wards and met so many wonderful people as a result. I'll never forget the kindness and compassion shown by our wonderful ward in Saratoga Springs. The ladies in that ward will always have a special place in my heart. I'm thankful for the friendships that were made in the Suncrest ward, as well as her current ward. My mom left some pretty amazing friends from Vancouver, and then there are friends that start as neighbors and become like sisters. I'm thankful for those of you that have visited her and have contributed to her happiness in any way in her lifetime. 

Please share this with everyone you know. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to me or any member of our family. Thank you is inadequate, but on behalf of my family, thank you and we love you.



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Brittany Garstin Rodrigues 
Provo, UT
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