I met Kara when we were in the 7th grade. I was at my third new school in as many years, and when my family finally landed in Boca Raton, Florida, I was a shy 13-year-old who just wanted some friends and to fit in. (My sixth grade experience, where everyone returned from summer vacation having gone through puberty except yours truly, resulted in a year with approximately two friends and a lot of time spent reading books.)
Early on in the school year, I tried out for the soccer team. I was blown away by Kara – who was so incredibly skilled, so above and beyond everyone else, that you couldn’t take your eyes off of her. I wanted to be her friend so badly. And when I made the team, pretty soon, we were.
Through high school, the bonds of friendship only got stronger. Varsity soccer as freshman. First crushes. Sleepovers. Our first high school parties. Driving to UF to visit her sister for our first college visit. Some of the happiest and most care-free times of my life were spent with Kara, at her house, with her family, and with our friends — which made the call that she had cancer one of the very most devastating calls I’ve ever received in my life.
To know why it hurt so bad to learn that Kara, of all people, had cancer means knowing a bit more about Kara herself. Nevermind the fact that she’s only 31 years old. But first, Kara is one of the most gifted athletes I’ve ever met in my life. She eventually played D1 soccer for UF, but she was a star long before that. Throughout high school, as this became more and more apparent and as she got better and better, her reputation began to precede her. When we played, Kara was marked. She would be kicked, punched, tripped – you name it, girls tried to take her down one way or another. But never once – in fact, I got in more trouble for fighting on her behalf – did I ever see Kara lose her temper, raise her voice or do anything but jump up, dust herself off, and keep playing.
Two, that same attitude carries over into her life in general. I can’t think of a single time, seriously not one, when I’ve seen Kara anything less than absolutely even. Completely and utterly even. She is the gentlest, most easy-going, most laidback person I have ever met in my entire life. And going on 18 years of friendship, that is saying something.
Three, there is not a person who meets Kara who doesn’t walk away saying to themselves what an amazing person she is. Everyone who meets her implicitly understands they have met a wonderful, interesting, intelligent woman. Who is up for anything. Who will laugh at everything. Who will do the wackiest thing if you suggest it, without blinking an eye. I could call Kara right now and say, “let’s go to the moon and I need you to fly.” She would wait just a beat and say, alright. And she would also somehow know how to fly the rocket because she’s amazing and smart like that.
Fourth, but not least, Kara is in the same exact shape she was in when we were in 7th grade! I seriously can’t think of a healthier damn person. For all the abuse some people do to their bodies, it really made zero sense to me that Kara of all people would be struck unhealthy.
So when I heard the word cancer, that horrific word, I got so, so, so mad. Just devastated. Because if there one person on this Earth who does not deserve that, it is Kara. But by a weird twist of fate, our other best friend, Olivia, and I, had booked a trip to see her just three weeks following the announcement of her diagnosis, even though we haven’t been able to visit in the several years she’s lived in Colorado. And once we got to Boulder one thing became very clear — if anyone could kick cancer’s ass, it was Kara. That same attitude – that I can do anything and I am going to do just that attitude – was going to carry her through. I knew it when I saw her inject herself with estrogen (as a precaution she was going to harvest her eggs) and then proceed to smoke Olivia and I on the slopes (though admittedly in my case, that’s not very hard.)
With the help of family, good friends, a good job, and an amazing boyfriend, Kara endured six months of hell. And in early August, when she wrote an email saying that the doctors could no longer find any trace of cancer in her system, my sad tears turned into happy ones. Because my beautiful, kind, amazing friend was given the second chance she shouldn’t ever have needed, but so richly deserved.
And when she invited some friends to come celebrate her being cancer-free two weekends ago, it was little wonder that nearly 20 people showed up for a three-day party. We hiked. We rode horses. We went to a steak dinner where the owner of the restaurant was also a magician. We went to something that could only be described as an adult gymboree (more to come on the latter two fronts. it was amazing.) But the most important thing of the whole weekend was to see Kara so happy, so healthy, and so full of life. In typical Kara fashion, you could barely even tell she had been sick at all.
I am so thankful – for so many reasons. That I got to be there. That this amazing person is my friend. For all the new friends I got to meet. But most of all that Kara is healthy. For the lesson that if you are very lucky, fate will sometimes give wonderful people a second chance to live their life the way they were absolutely meant to.