Karen was a devoted wife and mother, a loving daughter and sister, and a caring friend. In her 38 years of life, Karen exulted in the presence of her loved ones and exalted all who surrounded her to new levels of love in action.
She believed that "to whom much is given, much is expected," and lived her life seeking out opportunities to give her time and talents so that children could build good lives. Karen was instrumental in developing the Saint Bernadette Scholarship Fund, which now bears her name. She and her husband Tom created Carns’s Coats for Kids. Through Saint Vincent DePaul groups and individual schools, new winter coats are distributed to needy children annually.
In June of 2000, Karen was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. In the fall and winter, she underwent treatments that were not successful. On Good Friday, 2001, she and her husband Tom struggled to accept the reality that the cancer had transformed into an acute lymphoma requiring aggressive, sometimes experimental treatment. Although there were hopeful indications at times, none of the treatments were successful.
As a community we gathered to pray with and for Karen and her family at Bellarmine Chapel, Xavier University. This Healing Mass on June 11, 2001, was right before she began the last drug treatment that doctors could suggest. In the letter printed in the program, Karen wrote:
"It's true that a cancer diagnosis changes your life. Things slow down dramatically and suddenly you find the time to watch the kids play in the yard, take that bike ride, or appreciate the beauty of the sunset.
In the past year, our perspectives and priorities have changed but the one consistent thread through it all has been love. Tom's love has gotten me through many doctor's reports and so much more and then I have my four angels to greet me at the door each time I come home. We turn to family and friends again and again to celebrate the good news and cushion the blows of the setbacks.
The outpouring of love and support that we receive has taught my family that one valuable lesson---to be loved and to love is all that really matters. It's the love I have for my life that strengthens my resolve to stay positive, hopeful, and determined.
I leave this mass tonight a much richer woman. Just like the "Light the Night" walk, you've filled me with love, encouragement and support, which will sustain me in the days to come. While I live with faith and hope, it's the love that inspires me the most. Thanks for giving your love so graciously to me."
The treatments' devastating physical effects did not diminish the brilliance
of Karen’s spirit. Instead, her positive attitude, her absolute faith in God, and her laughter and love seemed to glow even brighter.
On August 19, 2001, God healed Karen perfectly by welcoming her into
All of us who know her and love her are determined that her "love in
action" will continue to enrich the lives of children.
Visit carnsnet.com to read more about Karen’s story. The carnsnet website was constructed during Karen’s illness in the summer of 2001. Among many links, it contains the "collected updates" about her condition (some written by Karen and Tom themselves), the readings and letters from the Healing Mass and the Memorial Mass, and a Guestbook signed with love and prayer by hundreds of dear friends.