Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tribute to a survivor

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my sister Karin. I don't think I've written about her much on this blog...probably in part because I don't think she really reads it, and partly because I know she is a much more private person than I am and I didn't know how she would like me writing about her...But for this particular post I checked with her and she said it would be ok.

She is on my mind...

Now more than ever.

With the reminder that this month is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I've been thinking back a few years, remembering just how strong and courageous Karin really is. Something I don't think she gives herself enough credit for.

So I wanted to write about her, about what she's taught me, and let her know just how grateful I am to have her as my sister and my friend. And how much I still look up to her.

Karin is only a few years older than I am. She was only 31 (the age that I am now) when she was diagnosed with Ductal carcinoma in situ...

I remember that day. Like it was yesterday. A memory forever ingrained in my heart.

I was at her house with her two small kids. I remember pushing the kids on the swings in her back yard, the very backyard where we used to play as kids, thinking everything was going to be fine. The biopsy would prove that it was just a cyst not cancer, she was only 31 for heaven's sake! We don't have a history of breast cancer in our family. Everything was going to be fine.

But the moment she pulled in the driveway, my heart sank. She got out of the car and I knew. Everything was not fine.

The months that followed, were awful. There was lots of testing. Followed by lots of bad news. Karin's cancer was very aggressive. There were concerns that it had already started to spread into her lymph nodes, so her treatment had to be even more aggressive. She had to undergo chemo and radiation along with several very invasive surgeries.

During those months, my sisters and I all became closer than ever. We were all talking to each other several times a day. But instead of talking about kids, or jobs, or borrowing an outfit, like sisters should have been talking about, our conversations became cancer, estrogen and progesterone receptor positive, the effects of chemo and radiation... I remember night after night Kristin and I would be on the phone comparing things we'd read...I remember calling Jean to see how Karin was REALLY doing. inside. Because she, herself, would never let on that things weren't ok.

That's Karin.

She's strong. Incredibly, insanely, inspiringly STRONG.

While I was sitting at home worrying, obsessing, crying, doubting, feeling helpless, hopeless, Karin was busy moving on with life. Trying to keep things as normal as possible for the sake of her kids.

The days when I would worry myself into a paralyzing migraine, she kept right on going. She got out of bed each day, got her kids dressed, fed and off to school. On the weeks that she didn't have chemo, she went to work! She wasn't going to let cancer stand in the way of her living life each day. one day at a time. Karin has handled every thing that life has thrown at her with great strength and determination. each day is a gift. there are no guaranties.

Part of the difficulty for me in those months, was remembering one of my dear friend's mom. Watching her go through the same things that I was now watching my sister go through. Surgeries, chemo, radiation, the loss of her hair. When we were in high school, my friend's mom lost her battle with cancer...

That terrified me every day.

Karin has now been cancer free for four years.

Because of the research that is being done.

Because of the Dr's and the treatments that have come so far in just the past ten years.

I am so thankful.

Because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I challenge each and every one of you to do something. Be a part in the search for a cure!

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

American Cancer Society

and if you can't donate, then run/walk or just be there for someone who needs a shoulder. We all know someone who has been effected by this disease, let's honor them, their fight, by doing something.

This song Dream Big has sort of become Karin's theme song! It still makes me cry every time I hear it.

MySpace Music Playlist at


hotflawedmama said...

Great post. Your sister seems to embody everything I aspire to be when the going gets tough. You are very lucky to have her, and vice versa.

Kristin said...

Well said! That brought back a lot of memories of that day and the weeks and months that followed. She definately has been amazing and inspiring through everything. Dream Big!

Karin said...

Thank you so much, Jess. I Love You! I probably would not have been so determined if it weren't for the incredible loving support of all of my family and friends. It was not only me being strong, it was everyone. Giving up, was not an option!
Jess may say that she looks up to me, but I definitely look up to my little sister. She is such an amazing mother...obvious from her blog if you don't know her personally! She has such a beautiful family and I can't wait to meet their newest addition. Congratulations, you are such an inspiration to me! Love ya, Karin