I met Karen in high school. She was always fun, outgoing and sweet. A few months ago when I was gathering toys and clothes for children in Peru undergoing open heart surgeries, she was one of the first people to contact me with a trunk full of goodies. I'm honored to share Karen's voice.
|Here's a photo of Karen and her family in October 2011.|
|Karen's dad and daughter in New Zealand February 2012.|
By Karen Moran Faullhaber
Two thousand and three was set to be the best year of my life. I had met the guy of my dreams (Scott, who is now my husband) and -- despite having known him for only 3 months – had decided to join him on a six month work assignment he had in Burlington, Vermont. Since our time in Burlington was going to be brief, my plan was to train for a marathon, discover New England, and enjoy my life rather than work.
I was so excited when my parents came to visit us. Scott and I planned to take my parents to Montreal for a long weekend, followed by some time in Vermont, where my parents could get to know Scott. As we explored Vermont that weekend, we visited the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. It was there that the “best year of my life” transformed into something much different.
My mom and Scott were walking ahead of my dad and I. I distinctly remember him telling me “hold one for one second before we go in because I want to tell you something.” My dad is very sentimental and expressive so I knew what was coming next: a sappy speech about how he couldn’t believe how grown up I was and how much he liked Scott. Ugghh, I don’t know why we always had to have these awkward sentimental moments together in public. I was thinking about how I wished he could just tell me these things over the phone or, better yet, leave them to my mom.
Anyway, we stopped and I steeled myself for the awkward sentimentality. My dad then said “Karen, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma a few months ago and have been told I have 18 months to live.” I was stunned. Was my dad really telling me he had 18 months to live while a tourist group walks by me in front of the Trapp Family Lodge? It took a minute to register and then I just cried uncontrollably. My dad hugged me and took me for a walk. It was so surreal, I couldn’t think and when I saw my mom I just cried like a baby. Poor Scott just looked on not knowing what to say. The rest of the day is a blur. I called my brother and cried some more. The rest of their visit is a blur, all I remember is standing in front of the Trapp Family Lodge listening to those words coming out of my dad’s mouth.
Months passed in Vermont. I wished I had a job to keep me occupied. I wished I were home to help out (my parents forbid it). Most of all, I wished I knew more about what my dad was up against. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) was an invaluable resource, providing me with a wealth of information and support. Doctors told my dad that his only hope was to harvest enough stem cells to enable him to get a stem cell transplant. He tried and tried but was never well enough to harvest the cells. Again, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society came to the rescue. My dad was able to participate in a clinical trial for a drug LLS funded called Rituxan. That drug ultimately saved my dad’s life.
My dad is now in remission, which has given him the extra time to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, witness the birth of my two children, and share in their childhood.
LLS is truly remarkable, it literally changed my life and it changes other peoples’ lives everyday. I am honored to give back to LLS now as part of a team led by my brother competing in the LLS Man and Woman of the Year campaign, which is a 10-week competition among teams across the U.S. competing to raise the most money for LLS. All support is welcomed and deeply appreciated. I am passionate about LLS because I have seen first hand the comfort and benefits it provides. To donate or learn more about LLS or the competition please click HERE and visit my WEBSITE.