Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Janelle Karras...The Rest of the Story

I didn't ask for permission to write the rest of Janelle's story. I didn't ask because I know my mom's family. I know they don't like anyone to make a fuss over them.
But I'm going to do it anyway because the world deserves to know what they did.

Let me tell you just one of the things they did for Janelle:
Every Sunday they would bring Janelle from the nursing home out to the family farm.
He would carry her into the house.
They would enjoy the day together as if MS never existed in Janelle's body.
He would carry her out to the van.

These are the people who inspire me to keep writing greeting cards for both caregivers and patients.
These are the people who inspire me to be a better person.
These are the people who inspire me to be a better brother because the "they" and "he" up above are/is Janelle's brother Kent Haury and his wife Myrla.

Even though Janelle suffered greatly with MS, she was so blessed to have had a loving brother and sister-in-law.
They will tell you they were only doing what anyone would do in their situation.
I disagree.
What they and the millions of dedicated loving caregivers do, is extraordinary, and I will keep on blowing their cover.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Janelle Karras

Janelle Karras passed away peacefully March 21, 2012, at 11:16 a.m. CST after a courageous 29 year battle with MS. Our lives crossed in person for less than 2 hours, but I will be inspired by her the rest of mine. You see MS may have taken away all her ability to walk and even peck out an e-mail on her computer, but it never stopped her smile. It never destroyed her faith. It never stole the twinkle in her eyes and excitement in her voice as she shared stories about my mother when they were little girls.
See...Janelle Karras was my mom's "little" cousin.
I had heard about her my whole life, but geography limited us to only meeting once in person back in December 2010. Within minutes, Janelle lived up to my mother's hype of being an
inspiration to everyone who knew her. She was truly an amazing woman!

Even though Janelle and I spent little time together, she made and will make a big impact on my life. I hope I can do the same to others no matter the length of time we spend together.

I hope you do too.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Honestly, I had never heard of one before I started contacting hospital gift shops about Kare’n Cards. When I talked about them with other people, most had a blank look on their face and questioned, “Who?”

The mysterious individuals I’m talking about are Child Life Specialists. Child Life Specialists help children and their families cope and live with a serious even life threatening illness.

The first one I met was amazing.

The five hundredth one I met was amazing.

The one thousand one hundred and ninety seventh was amazing.

I think you get my point:

Child Life Specialists are amazing.

Next week I’m going to share some of their stories. If you know one or are one, I invite you to join the conversation and be a storyteller on this blog.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stay tuned.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending two national/international conferences. One was for hospice organizations, and the other was for Child Life Specialists. In the coming days and weeks, I will be sharing some of their amazing stories because these individuals model what Kare'n Cards are all about and are an inspiration to us all. Just wait until you hear their stories. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


On her own time and out of her own pocket, Jo Ann Namm decorates pillowcases. What’s the big deal about that you ask? See…

Jo Ann works with terminally ill patients and their families at a famous hospital in LA. One day she came up with an idea to spark a timeless interaction between the dying patient and their family and friends. Based on the dying person’s favorite hobby, she would create a custom pillowcase. If the patient were a Harley fan, then she would buy Harley Davidson fabric and sew a pillowcase. If they were a Lakers’ fan, then the fabric would be Lakers. You get the idea.

But she didn’t stop there.

Jo Ann took it one giant step further. She invited the patient to share a word or words that they wanted their loved ones to remember them by or for. Whatever they said, Jo Ann crafted on the pillowcase. When the time was right, the pillowcase was given as a gift to the family and friends… by their loved one. Often, it was the last gift exchanged between them. Can you visualize the emotion? Can you imagine how cherished that pillowcase is?

It happened and is still happening because Jo Ann Namm sparked a timeless moment using... pillowcases.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Meet a Miracle

Meeting a cancer survivor is inspiring. Meeting a two time cancer survivor is awe inspiring as in double "WOW!!"
Meet Valerie Brown who is a full fledged member of the small band of survivors to have stared down breast cancer twice. The first time she was a 34 year old single mother to a 14 year old daughter. It was the 1970s which may not seem long ago, but when it comes to cancer treatment it was almost prehistoric. So Valerie planned for the worst by making the best choices of guardianship for her daughter Carla. Then she focused her energy on fighting the cancer. In the end, Valerie won the war!

Twenty five years of checkups went by with great news. Then... the enemy returned to pick another fight. Maybe it's because she grew up on the tough streets of Boston, or perhaps it's just her disposition, whatever it is Valerie Brown is the wrong person to mess with. Apparently, breast cancer didn't learn its lesson the first time, and like the champ she is, Valerie knocked out cancer...again.

This past fall, Valerie's husband, Bill, threw her a 2nd "Five Year Cancer Free Anniversary" party. If I remember correctly, over 120 of her family and friends from all over the country came to West Palm Beach to celebrate the historic moment.

To survive cancer once is remarkable. To survive cancer twice borders on the miraculous. And if you doubt miracles happen, then you need to meet Valerie Brown because that's what she is.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Last Conversation

It's one thing to lose someone we love when we know they are dying.
It's an entirely different thing when someone in our world dies without warning.
The former provides opportunities to say goodbye; the latter does not.

Today a close friend of mine is facing the latter with the completely unexpected death of someone close to him who was only 50 years old. She went to bed last night happy and healthy only to die in her sleep. My heart aches for him and his family.

I wonder who she spoke to last. I wonder what she said.

When someone dies in our world, it's quite common to recall the last time we saw or spoke with them. Think about the people you've lost. Who did they speak to last? What did they say? What was your last conversation with them?