Happy Birthday Kara.
It has now been years since Kara passed away from Leukemia in 2011. It is crazy to think how one woman, one dear friend, touched and influenced the lives of so many people. I find myself still thinking about her infectious smile, her famous hugs, and her loud voice in the dorm lobby going, “AMBURGURLAR!!”
She was an amazing woman. All who knew her agree with that statement.
I remember when I first found out that she was diagnosed with Leukemia. She had not been feeling well for quite a while, but kept getting sent home from the doctor’s offices because they couldn’t find anything wrong. Well, in one ER trip they quickly discovered that her blood work was far from normal. She was rushed to the big medical hospital in the main city, two hours away from our college town. It shook our circle of friends. It shook our dorm community. Our entire university felt the pain of the diagnosis.
How do you react?
How do you respond when one of your close friends suddenly discovers they have a blood cancer? There is some relief in the diagnosis. It is an explanation for the suffering and pain. But, the name is so scary. Leukemia. What does that even mean? What will her life look like?
I remember talking to her about being diagnosed with a disease. We both had fancy names attached to our aches and pains.
Relief in a name?
During one of my hospital visits with her, I received a call from my doctor. I stepped outside of her room to take it. Some of my blood work was not normal. They were going to immediately start me on some new and different medicine that would hopefully get me feeling better. I walked back into Kara’s hospital room in tears. They had discovered what was off in me! I wasn’t imagining my pain! The blood work backed it up. I remember her hugging me and smiling. There is a relief in knowing the name to the suffering.
I struggled greatly with her diagnosis, especially when my Addison’s flared up that year. I was complaining to my friend about how awful my disease was, and how just frustrated at life I was. And then I paused as it hit me. My disease could still allow me to live a “normal” life. Kara’s disease could kill her.
She did beat it once. Then it came back.
I remember sitting with her late in the dorm lobby one night before she left for the hospital again. She didn’t know if she would return to our college. She didn’t know what would happen. Kara was well known for always having a smile and always being optimistic. But this time, she was tired. She just sat there crying, scared, and angry. She had already beaten Leukemia. Why did it come back? Why do diseases happen? She had planned out her life. She was going to teach electronics to high school students. And she was going to be damn good at it.
I didn’t have any answers for her. All I could do was hug her, listen to her, and cry with her.
Cancer is an odd thing.
It can strike suddenly, and with a vengeance. Kara died on her 22nd Birthday. We were thankful that she was no longer in constant pain, but a cruel cancer had stolen one of the most bright and cheerful women I have ever known.
For a little while after her death, I forbid myself to complain about living with Addison’s Disease. I could at least still function with my disease. Kara’s disease killed her.
But that is not a healthy way to cope.
Addison’s Disease does suck at times. Actually, my optimism and cheery outlook on life will not allow me to mention how it is awful pretty much 100% of the time. But stating that I’m better off than a “Cancer Patient” is not beneficial.
I am allowed to mention the discomforts of my disease. I am allowed to state at times that this disease is scary. At times I get scared. But as a whole, I can choose to remain optimistic. I can choose to focus on the positive in life. I will choose to remain Clearly Alive.
And Kara, I still love and miss you.