Everything Karen fought for, worked for, strived for, all of it was for her family. Calling them her Fab Five, Karen loved them more than life itself. Although she is no longer physically with us, her spirit lives on through these five individuals. Her final living wish was for all to watch them spread the Karen optimism and cheeseballness. They are her life’s greatest accomplishment.
Kenny Carlquist: The loving, dedicated and hockey obsessed husband of Karen and the father to their two youngest children, Karson & Kenzie. Kenny took the phrase “in sickness and in health” literally. He is the one responsible for keeping Karen’s message alive by creating the Team Karen foundation.
Gavin Pracher: The oldest son of Karen and the first child to make Karen a mother. Gavin was Karen’s biggest cheerleader and he inherited his mother’s positivity and optimism.
Ryan Pracher: The oldest daughter of Karen who has the biggest heart, just like her mother. She has her mother’s soul and their mutual love of things being clean and orderly.
Karson Carlquist: The perfect combination of Karen and Kenny, Karson has the spirit of Karen and the rambunctious attitude of a young Kenny.
Kenzie Carlquist: The exact spitting image of her mother, with Karen’s attitude to boot. She has tons of sass, the “I can do it myself” attitude, a huge smile and a love of a good dance party.
Christopher Reeve’s once said” A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” This was Karen. Her journey is one proving toughness comes from the spirit and soul, not the muscle. On August 11, 2016, Karen was diagnosed with stage 3 triple negative breast cancer. Doctors were initially optimistic, stating the cancer was found so early that should she of had a mammogram just 9 months prior, they likely would not have caught it. Yet, shortly after this diagnosis, Karen’s cancer became one of the most aggressive the doctors had ever seen. It seemed anything the doctors threw at her disease the disease was always one step ahead. From two lumps appearing on her breast the morning of her double mastectomy, to the rapid spread of cancer to her liver, hip and brain, to her liver tumors quadrupling in size in just 2 weeks, to being put into hospice just 2 weeks before Christmas, it felt like it was always one step forward and two steps back. However, the constant setbacks were always offset by Karen’s infectious positivity and motivation. She never let the bad outweigh the good. Her sixteen-month battle may have been the hardest journey Karen ever traveled, but it was constantly filled with silly moments with her family, endless laughter with friends, inspirational posts on her TeamKaren blog, tons of selfies and cheesy moments, trips to Nashville, Walt Disney World, Luke Bryan & Pink concerts, and always treasuring each moment. When Karen passed on December 15, 2017, we grieved and ached for her physical presence, but her memory of positivity and grit led us here, to Team Karen.
A legacy is not leaving something for people so much as leaving something in people. Karen’s story, her passion for life and her love for everything beautiful and positive in the wake of hardship and negativity left a lasting handprint on so many people’s souls. Though she lived a short 36 years, the message she preached will last long after all of us are gone. Karen wanted everyone to remember life is incredibly beautiful, to live each day as if it was your last, to love everyone deeply and fiercely, to be silly and see the cheesy side of life, and to keep in mind there may be bad days in life, but it is not a bad life. This is a message today’s world doesn’t hear nearly as often as it should, and yet Karen was living this message even as she was dying. Karen told Kenny “I feel as if God is trying to tell me something with this battle, that I know I am meant to help people.” Karen wanted to help spread hope, positivity, cheer and a brightness that no matter how dark the day was, would always shine through. Though she received a great amount of negative news during her fight, she still woke up every day with a smile on her face and a positive energy which simply radiated off her. Soon, Karen adopted a phrase so many came to know and live by: “It’s a beautiful day to be alive.” In knowing her life may be cut short, Karen woke up each day and literally lived by the phrase, and in doing so, she encouraged so many others to do so too. She wanted everyone she knew to spread this message, hoping to inspire as many as possible to take a step back and realize, life really is beautiful and we are so lucky to be alive.
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