If I'm being completely honest, I am not exactly sure how to start this post. I feel like there is a lot to be said and so many different ways to say it. So many memories, so many laughs and so much love to share with you all but sometimes when life happens like this, words don't exactly capture the way you're feeling or what someone is going through. So bare with me, I want my words to speak volumes of this girl and I want to put a smile bigger than Texas on her face that will last her months upon months. I hope more than anything you guys will see her the way I do when all is said and done.
Meet Karlee Gene Riggs
Karlee was born and raised in Enterprise, Oregon. You'll normally find her near Wallowa Lake, playing with her two yellow labs or up in the mountains hunting with her Father. She's a lover of the outdoors and wicked smart with guns. She has the most infectious laugh and this incredible way of making you feel like you're at home no matter where you might be. Always making you comfortable without even trying.. Not to mention she makes the best biscuits and gravy with your choice of fresh orange juice or hot coffee.
I met Karlee about 3 years ago in Lewiston, Idaho while attending Cosmetology School. My first impression was "yikes she's beautiful and those eyebrows are perfect" you know, your typical friend crush thoughts. Little did I know she would be one of the most influential gals in my life. Between then and now we have made some unforgettable memories and built an invincible friendship. From the time we all went riding razors in the snowy mountains to the time we accidently found ourselves at Pirates Cove; a nude beach on the Central Coast of California. Karlee wasn't exactly thrilled when she saw an old man (whom looked like he was made of leather)'s ding-a-ling... It was awesome. Karlee is the kind of girl that buys you matching toe rings and takes you to pet domesticated bucks when you're going through a really hard break up, she's THAT friend.
A little over a year ago Karlee was hit with devastating news; Cervical Cancer was now a big part of her Health Records. I will never forget the moment I found out. Sitting in the pickup, I read the text. First I was completely silent trying to process what she was saying, and soon after the tears came. I remember being so scared and worried for my best friends health but trying to be a positive influence at the same time. I couldn't believe this amazing, young, ambitious woman was about to go to war with cancer.
In a group text with four other of our closest girlfriends, we kept each other all up to date on Karlee's condition. The first big scare was a bowel obstruction which was the outcome of a stitched intestine from her first operation. She was put in ICU for a few days and remained in the hospital for a week and a half. The next, was finding out the chemo was killing her due to a rare form of anemia that the doctors had no knowledge of before hand which lead to a radical hysterectomy.
The first time I saw her after being diagnosed was hard. Her hair was gone and she was itty bitty, but she had this calm about her that made me believe all would be okay.. She would be okay. Her strength was so beautiful to me.. Us girls had made this new tradition to go to Chief Joseph Days each summer. We were sitting in the stands at the rodeo and I remember watching Karlee braiding Colleen's hair. To this day that moment still makes me speechless.. I was so blown away, it's just another one of those moments of impact you can't really describe with words.
Things started to look up after her Hysterectomy, Her and Colleen finally got to come visit me in the Sunshine state this past April. It was a week I'll never ever forget. We corn rowed each others hair and watched stupid movies. We even made a couple of our own slo-mo videos that probably were only funny to us, but we didn't care. We spent the days on different beaches, horsin around and getting our feet wet. We ate plenty of carbs and even more ice cream. I loved every minute. And not one laugh was taken for granted.
The last night of their visit we went to a nice dinner at 15 Degrees in down town Templeton. The food lacked in comparison to the company. I prefer it that way though. Karlee opened up about being sick and explained in detail how it's not a matter of 'if' its a matter of 'when' she would get sick again. She went on to tell us all the different places the cancer was likely to come back at. This conversation made me sad, but the way she held herself during the conversation made me feel proud more than anything. Proud to call this girl a best friend of mine.
Days after she left, her doctor called and informed her they had found pre-leukemic cells in her bone marrow.
This meant a bone marrow transplant which will take place on the 29th of June.
She was admitted on the transplant floor yesterday at OHSU.
Today was Karlee's first day of Chemo in efforts to kill her immune system so it doesn't reject her donor.
The most special piece of my story though is this, the donor is her younger sister, Hayley Riggs. A beautiful, selfless lady who wants to see her sister healthy and her family at peace. Another moment of impact that is hard to put into words..
This is a family tied together with grace and unconditional love. I look at the picture above and see two little girls who only know the meaning of laughter and the 'real' purpose of leaf piles. I see two little girls that were raised right.
Happy girls, silly girls, STRONG girls.
Sisters who would sacrifice their entire world to help save the other.
You are both heroic in the eyes of many.
I just want you to know that what you're going through will never go unnoticed and neither will your gorgeous smile. Keep tough; I know you can overcome any obstacle God places in your path. You and your family are heavy on my mind and even heavier on my heart these days. I hope that you make friends and listen to their stories. I hope you find comfort in the small things. I hope you smile along the way. I hope you hold your parents hands every once in awhile, just to share a feeling of security. I hope you feel loved. I hope you feel cherished. I hope you feel strong. I hope you feel beautiful. I hope you feel like a warrior.... Because you are all of that and so much more. I cannot wait to come see you in September, I know you will be in good spirits.
Keep Faith in God's Greater Plan.
One day you will be Free again, I promise you.
Karlee and her family will be living near the hospital in Portland for four months to keep a close eye on the status of her health. This family has never asked for any help, but they sure do deserve any bit they can get.
I will leave a link below for those of you that would like to lend a helping hand.
Any donations are greatly appreciated!
I LOVE YOU KAR!