Kara Marie Amey - Celebration of Life!
The human experience gives us the tippy top highs and lowest lows - isn't that what life is all about? Today was no different in celebrating the life of a beautiful young woman named Kara Amey! Since age 8, I've gone to many funerals, services, and celebrations of life, but none like I/we did today. The entire service was well-thought-out, and the love emanating from all who attended was palpable. Frankly, astounding.
Cancer warrior Kara Marie Amey lost her battle at age 29 from her 5X battles with rare brain cancers earlier this summer. Perhaps the several months between her death and today gave some space and reflection to make today extra special for the Amey Family and their many guests.
Kyle Amey, Kara’s big brother (in age and size - like 6’4"!), knocked it out of the park better than a World Series home run hitter this afternoon as he spoke passionately, candidly, and lovingly about his brave sister, Kara. As any little sister in the world would do, she looked up to her brother and considered him her hero, but as Kyle realized, the tables turned with each new diagnosis and bravery needed that it was Kara who became his heroine. No matter how bad a day or week was for Kyle's little sister, she battled on and NEVER gave up hope. Let's face it, those rare cancers ravaged her body relentlessly.
There has got to be a better way to treat these diseases!
Kyle emceed and moved the folks in attendance with touching stories of Kara and their family, along with others who spoke of Kara's extraordinary life. Although there were many people, I felt the gathering was an intimate send-off to all who loved Kara and continue to love this amazing family through their profound grief.
Not one bit of motion was detected as Kyle delved into the detail that Kara was a cancer survivor for 7,138 days, starting when she was first diagnosed in 2002. Her brilliant brain surgeon, Dr. Malgram (sp?), who removed her first egg-size tumor at age 10, sent a video describing Kara and some of her surgical past. This doctor mentioned a breakthrough technique of using a special kind of shunt, which was frankly quite sobering and miraculous in itself because it was the only one she needed that lasted 17 years.
Several people close to Kara, including Dr. Aziza Shad, her cousin Lisa, her sister Ellie, her best friend Luis, and her Dad Scott, articulated heartfelt sentiments about Kara’s generous spirit, compassion for others, impeccable style (she was the best dresser and fashionista - including hats and jewelry - this side of the Mississippi), and the kindness she bestowed on every person she met on her life’s journey.
Dr. Shad, the first speaker after Kyle, grew close with Kara, her mom, Debbie, dad, Scott, and Kyle (and Kyle’s fiance), since they first entered the Georgetown Peds/Hem/Onc Clinic 20 years ago (our families met shortly after they arrived at Georgetown). Dr. Shad expressed her love for the entire family, her intuitive perspective on Kara’s treatment(s) and surgeries, and Kara's unwavering bravery, spirit, wit, and kindness that went far beyond anyone’s imagination. Never one to underestimate any of her patients, Dr. Shad learned many lessons from Kara to help her treat other patients with clarity and grace. As Kara grew up, she took matters into her own hands, asked questions about her care, and became a partner in all aspects of her treatment plans with all her doctors, including her favorite, Dr. Shad.
In 2021, Kara accepted the Aslan Project Temesgan Gomacho Award from Dr. Shad, championing and giving hope to kids in Ethiopia fighting cancer.
To illustrate Kara’s kindness, Scott mentioned that he and Kara used to grocery shop at the same grocery store all through her high school years. Once they finished their shopping, they tended to get in line with the same kindhearted check-out girl. One day around Kara’s graduation, they bought a few items, including a bouquet of exquisite flowers. After they paid, Kara handed the bouquet back to the same check-out girl for the excellent service and kindness she had bestowed on Kara and her Dad for years. It was all Kara’s idea, and her Dad loved how she wanted to show appreciation for all the check-out girls’ hard work. I was also moved when Scott revealed that he called Kara “Pumpkin” and continued to do so until her dying day.
Cousin Lisa did a beautiful job speaking on behalf of the family and how the family was the number one item for all of them, especially Kara. While being blown away by every word Lisa articulated, this stood out: “A spirit cannot die if it lives on in the hearts of others.” I couldn’t agree more.
Kara’s sister Ellie shared her many experiences with Kara, all poignant and loving. In the last year of Kara’s life (I think she said this), Kara had a bucket list of writing Thank Yous to the many people that played some role in her life. Ellie asked the audience, “Who writes Thank You notes as a bucket list item!?”
Kara’s best friend, Luis, did a video montage of Kara’s short life. I don’t think there were any dry eyes in the room from the first photo to the last (I was dabbing mine with a fistful of tissues).
Before Kyle closed the service, Dr. Shad’s nephew, violist Rizwan Jagani, played Kara’s favorite song from the iconic drummer/vocalist Phil Collins: A Groovy Kind of Love. It was a beautiful tribute to a beautiful young woman and her family.
Kyle, a born storyteller who infused both funny and sobering tales of Kara and her antics as only a big brother could do, left us with anecdotes about life in the spunkiness and spirit of Kara. I loved that he said, “Kara took more toxic drugs over 20 years than any famous drummer in a rock and roll band.”
Go and Live a Full Life! And…make someone smile every day like Kara!
Kara was an advocate for better treatments and for kids of all ages in their struggles. She manufactured sunshine over and over for herself and many others!
If you can spare less than a minute to hear Kara speak, please click here:
For a longer version from the Congressional Briefing on 9/30/2021 for the Cancer Patient Equity Act with opening remarks from Dr. Catharine Young, please click here - Kara begins her remarks at 6:38) https://youtu.be/mqX7Rj_1W1s