Finding my boyfriend, now husband, at his school workplace to help him learn that his father had passed away has been by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do in life. From surprise at seeing me, to confusion, to devastation at losing his best friend, I never want to face that sort of unfair tragedy again. That day I began the long walk with the rest of my husband, Matt’s, family as we processed the shattering loss of an incredible, kind, caring father, teacher, lawyer, husband, and friend, Jonathan Karis.
This April’s Boston Marathon marks the five-year anniversary of the passing of my father-in-law, Jon Karis. I am running in honor of, not only Jon and my husband’s family, but also in honor of my incredible sister-in-law, who took a terrible tragedy and used it to grow into an incredible Mass Eye and Ear nurse.
In September of 2012, Jon Karis was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx, and so began their family’s long, arduous journey alongside Mass Eye and Ear. Their medical team worked tirelessly to treat Jon and to support his family throughout the entire process. Jon underwent multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, and endless time with the amazing nurses and doctors at Mass Eye and Ear.
In 2014, as my father-in-law endured exhausting treatment and recovery, my sister-in-law, Kirsten, chose to run the Boston Marathon, in his honor and for the Mass Eye and Ear team that had supported Jon and their family. As she approached the end of her training and Boston loomed only a few weeks away, Jon passed away suddenly and tragically from complications due to the cancer. While many would not have blamed Kirsten if she had decided to bow out of the race, Kirsten pushed on with a renewed determination and focus. Five years ago she finished the Boston Marathon in honor of her father and Team Eye and Ear, as my husband, our families, and I watched her courage and hard work with admiration.
Now, five years later, I am in awe of her. When her father became ill, Kirsten dropped everything to become his full-time caregiver. She worked hard to learn from the nurses and doctors so that Jon could live as close to a full life as possible while undergoing grueling treatment. They were able to enjoy all of the usual Karis traditions- visiting their home in South Carolina, supporting their favorite team, the Patriots, at Gillette, and seeing family and friends regularly—in large part due to the care and hard work of Kirsten and her mother, Nancy. Since then Kirsten has found a renewed calling as a nurse on the same floor that her father was once a patient. After Jon passed away she went back to school to become a nurse and now works tirelessly at Mass Eye and Ear, offering the same kind of support and care that the nurses and doctors provided for her father and their family five years ago.
I run this year to remember Jonathan Karis, a greatly missed father, and to honor Kirsten’s incredible work as part of the team at Mass Eye and Ear. What they do to support and care for patients like Jon is incredible and I look forward to raising money to support them and then running the 26.2 miles to honor them. Thank you to Kirsten, and the entire team at Mass Eye and Ear, for all that you do.
Mass Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck. Each year, 300,000 people—adults and children—from 80 countries seek care at Mass. Eye and Ear and 20,000 of them undergo life-changing surgery.
Mass. Eye and Ear is home to the world's largest vision and hearing research centers, offering hope and healing to patients everywhere through discovery and innovation. As a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, Mass. Eye and Ear trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology through our highly competitive residency and fellowship programs.
Mass. Eye and Ear is ranked a Top Hospital by U.S. News & World Report and a proud member of Partners HealthCare.
Learn more at MassEyeAndEar.org