Saturday, May 19, 2012

In Memoriam: Karen Kallenborn, 1942-2012

As my readers who either follow me on Twitter or are my Facebook friends probably already know, my Mother-in-Law, Karen Kallenborn, passed away this past Wednesday night, May 16, at about 7:30PM.

Karen had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia about a year ago on Memorial Day weekend, 2011. In those first few uncertain days after the diagnosis, of course, I turned to the Internet and learned that the prognosis for long-term survival wasn't great. Regardless, Karen received the best care the anti-cancer varsity in western Pennsylvania - the amazing doctors and nurses of UPMC Shadyside and the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center - could muster. With sincere thanks to God for the miracle of modern medicine and for guiding the hands of her caregivers, her leukemia entered remission by July and she was soon home thereafter.

I first met Karen (to my recollection) on Thanksgiving Day, 1995. Missy and I had only be dating at the time for about two months, so being stuck in Pittsburgh away from family it was an honor to have been invited for Thanksgiving dinner.

In all honesty, she didn't like me at first, and looking back I really can't blame her. I was 24, didn't own a car, and was working as an hourly contractor - plus I'm sure the beat-up woodland camo M65 military field jacket I wore back then as a winter coat didn't breed confidence in suitor-potential either.

In any case, I grew on her and I have to be uncountably grateful to her (and her husband, Ron) for raising such a wonderful woman as their daughter who became my wife.

Karen absolutely doted on - and yes, spoiled beyond belief :) - our two kids Penny and Neil. They were her only grandchildren and the center of the last 10 years of her life. Missy and I have been so lucky to have her parents close, as prior to Karen's illness, they were ready babysitters for date nights or even entire weekends.

There are plenty of great memories and stories I could relate, but most would require too much "set up" to explain properly in context.

Although Karen beat the AML at first and fared exceptionally well through treatment, her immune system and bone marrow never came back. She required regular blood and platelet transfusions and was at continued risk in her weakened state from any infection.

Well, about two and a half months ago, Karen was hospitalized again at UPMC Shadyside with an aggressive infection. While the powerful antibiotics neutralized the infection, she was too weak to also sustain the post-chemotherapy treatments that she had been on - and that was the door the AML needed to come back.

On the afternoon of May 1st, we got the news that Karen's blood was again massively leukemic and that there were no treatment options left. In her last days, she was cared for by the angels (and I do not use that term lightly) at Cedars Community Hospice in Monroeville, PA.

For those who are interested, you can find the visitation and funeral arrangements in the official obituary that appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Friday, May 18. If you are so inclined, I would ask that you make memorial donations in her name to either UPMC Shadyside, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Cedars Hospice, or naturally, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Karen & Missy on our wedding day - September 27, 1997
I'd like to thank all the dozens of folks - known personally and not - who have offered their prayers, well wishes, and condolences over the last few weeks and for that matter, over the last year. It's all been so comforting and reassuring.

We'll miss you so much, Karen. In our sorrow, we are comforted that you are now without disease, without pain, and will never suffer again. We live with the promise of the resurrection and that we'll see you again that day.

Rest in peace
August 24, 1942 - May 16, 2012

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4, NIV)

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