Fundraising Spotlight: In Loving Memory of Karen P, The Life and Legacy of a Triathlete

Esophageal cancer is one of the fastest growing and deadliest cancers in the United States.  There are no routine screenings to detect esophageal cancer in earlier stages and symptoms (such as difficulty swallowing, choking sensation, etc…) often occur once the cancer spreads and becomes more difficult (if not impossible) to treat.  There is a misconception that esophageal cancer “typically” affects older males.  However, due to the fact that esophageal cancer is rapidly increasing, it is also rapidly affecting both men and women of all ages.

When we received a donation and the story that we are about to share with you, we were heartbroken.   There are truly no words to express how horrific esophageal cancer is and each time we receive donations in memory of loved ones, our hearts break.   However, as we told her beloved friends, with Karen, an Ironman triathlete, who was diagnosed just six weeks before she passed away, it seems that not even esophageal cancer could dim her spirit and it will most certainly not touch her legacy.

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation is honored to carry out this mission in memory of Karen and we are very appreciative to her family and friends for donating in her name.

Photo via: Kate Z.

The story of our Karen is a story of adventure, love, passion, inspiration and courage.  (by Katie M.)

Diagnosed at thanksgiving (2017) and passed about 6 weeks later, (January 2018.)

In a cramped, plain waiting room in UM hospital, a crowd grows steadily from morning ‘til night. These are the close friends, closer friends, family, crazy swimmers, drinking buddies and running buddies of a woman who has lived a full and intense life, a woman who made everyone she met feel important and accomplished, included.

Karen is only 49, but has crammed at least 100 years of living into that time. She often seems both more youthful than her age and also wiser than her years. And so, the people who fill the waiting room and share their favorite memories of Karen on this private Facebook group come from a range of decades, backgrounds and locales. But we are equally enamored of her for her spirit, kindness, energy, forgiveness, optimism and endless passion.

Karen is an Ironman triathlete (yes, she’s qualified and raced Kona, we say when we brag about her) and a multiple-time Boston Marathon qualifier and finisher. She really is cool. This past year, she has cared tirelessly and lovingly for her mother. She always talks adoringly to anyone who will listen about her amazing, brilliant, successful brother and sister; they are royalty. It is clear from listening to her talk, that she has found a kind companion in Pat. She is devoted to that running dog, Buddy. In fact, Karen only knows amazing people and animals, rock stars; this is because, by knowing Karen, you are thereby elevated. To know Karen is to be instantly inspired and mesmerized. It is also to be loved. She would drive hours for a short visit, a long run, to be supportive, to cheer on a friend’s athletic endeavor, to try a new lake or join in on a fun race. Karen is passion, strength and love incarnate. She doesn’t do small.

So it shouldn’t have surprised her loved ones (aka: admirers, aka: us), the hundreds of people wanting to make the pilgrimage to UM hospital, the friends on each coast and multiple continents, that she would also finish dramatically. We were all able to Google esophageal cancer and see what the prognosis is. But this is Karen, she never does things the average way. She is strong and amazing. She baffles people routinely with her astounding feats. I can’t be the only one who really believed she would pull off a miracle. But I really did believe it.

Photo via: Kate Z.

Our Karen is a big personality in a strong and wiry little frame. A bundle of energy, like a hummingbird and a cheetah all at once, with a whole lot of lovey dog for good measure. She is full of and surrounded by love. A soul with the amazing gift of taking in the fuel of love from others and multiplying and reflecting it out tenfold. Even as she is suffering the cruel effects and pain of this disease, she is easing the discomfort and pain of others, making US feel better.

She finished Ironman Maryland strong, healthy and passionate on Oct. 7.   She started a new job she was excited to throw herself into with the same passion soon after. She doesn’t do small, even with cancer. She is bigger than life and that fed the disease too fast.  Her courage, passion and energy once again serving as incredible fuel, but this time for her undoing.

Now the 100s, probably thousands of us made to feel part of the elite who know her, stream (physically and virtually) into Ann Arbor for another hug, kiss, cry, laugh, story.  We all desire one more chance to love her up, one more chance to tell her how important she is in our lives, one more fix of Karen, who makes everyone a star when they reflect her brilliance.

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