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October 5, 2022

Breast Cancer Couldn't Stop This Mom's Love

While breast cancer eventually took Jane Karasin away from her family, her loving message to her son paved the way for him to help millions have a special emotional experience.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month gives us an opportunity to raise awareness and reflect on the achievements in breast cancer treatment, to celebrate survivors, and honor those we have lost. Our very own Head of Growth, Joe Karasin, sadly lost his mother in 2009 to metastatic breast cancer after an 8 year battle. Her story, however, serves as a lesson in how to be there, even after you’re gone.

Battling Breast Cancer At a Young Age

Jane Karasin was a young woman when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. At just 37 years old, Jane had two young children, aged 4 and 1. “When we were kids, I remember just knowing my mom was sick. We spent a lot of time with our relatives and family friends, and it was just a different experience. I didn’t know what was going on, and I assume my parents did that on purpose.”

Jane underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and even had a mastectomy. Her main desire was to stay alive and be there for her children. “Mom wanted to see us grow up. She fought hard so that she could be there for our graduations, weddings, grandkids, everything”, Joe remembers. “It wasn’t until I was much older that I knew my mom was a survivor of breast cancer, and what that actually meant.”

Jane’s cancer was put into remission, and the family went on with life. Joe recalls the next 11 years as being “very normal.” “We went on vacations, Mom helped out at school, and she kept on with her nursing career.

We participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and every year. This was pretty important, because it really gave me a deeper understanding of how my mom essentially stared death in the face and death blinked.”

Breast Cancer in Remission

“Like I said, life was normal, and good, after the battle Mom went through,” Joe says. Truthfully, many that have their breast cancer in remission often return to a normal life. “We were able to go on, almost as if it never happened. My sister and I played sports, Mom came to all of our games. Mom would get excited about school dances and events, probably more than I even did.”

Remission gave the Karasin family time to grow together. They created special memories that would last a lifetime. Joe’s dad was often seen with his camcorder or Nikon camera, snapping photos of events, vacations, and even everyday happenings. “We have thousands of pictures. Recently, I picked up a tote of them from my Dad’s house, but it was probably only 1/5 of what we actually have. The tote weighs 40 pounds” Joe says with a chuckle.

“We also have hours and hours of videos. One video my dad put in digital format has a bunch of memories from my first year. It is so great to look at and watch my mom doing what she loved, which was being a mother.” These videos are all on VHS or DVD format. Unfortunately, this leaves them susceptible to damage. Flood, fire and other things can easily make these memories disappear forever. “Sometimes I wondered what I would do with so many pictures and videos. There are so many, and it seems almost impossible to manage,” Joe told us. Luckily, Joe was able to discover a solution to this problem, but more on that later.

Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Second Battle

In 2000, Jane was having some odd health issues. Nothing too alarming at first, but she still wanted to stay on top of it. So she went for some tests at her general practitioner’s office. “Mom was always pretty healthy. She never smoked or drank alcohol, and she exercised and ate healthy,” Joe recalls. However, one fateful day in early 2001, Joe recalls a moment he would never forget.

“The cancer is back.” Those words haunt Joe to this day. “I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 15 years old, had come home from school, and was working on my homework upstairs. My parents called my sister and I down, which was odd. Usually we would work on homework until dinner time, and then have dinner together as a family, which was important to my parents.” “So we are sitting in the living room, and my mom dropped a hammer. I felt sick and didn’t even know why. I couldn’t believe what my parents were telling us,” Joe remembers, tearfully.

Jane would tackle this round of cancer with the same determination to stay alive as she did the first time around. “Mom was so determined to stay alive. She wanted to be around to see Julie, my sister, and I graduate and grow up. She wanted to enjoy her retirement with my Dad. To see her robbed of all of this was heartbreaking.”

The next 8 years were fraught with highs and lows. “My parents worked hard to minimize the impact that metastatic breast cancer had on our everyday lives,” Joe recalls. “We still went on vacations, we still went out on our boat, and we still had family parties and gatherings at our house.” Of course, it is impossible to completely ignore the impact that cancer has on a family. And as Jane’s cancer progressed, things became more dire.

On February 28th, 2009, Jane Karasin passed away. She was surrounded by family and friends.

A Surprise From Heaven

“After the funeral, I was helping my dad get his house back in order. Mom didn’t want to die in a hospital, so we had in-house hospice care. We had to get the hospital bed out of the house. Next to the bed was an end table that Mom kept things on. She had a small bag on there, and as I emptied the bag, there was an envelope inside,” Joe said. “It said ‘Joey’ on the outside, which is what my mom called me. Inside was a letter. It was dated September 2008…so my mom had written me a letter to receive after she was gone.”

Leaving a letter for Joe to find in 2009 was the best way his mom could think to be there for him. The letter outlined some of Jane’s feelings, expressing her desire that Joe meet “a nice girl and get married” one day. The letter concludes with a request that Joe take time out and think about his mom and reflect on the happy memories they shared over the years.

“Mom wanted me to think of her and smile. That was hard to do early on after she passed away. But over time, I have been able to think of the happy times. I can recall going on vacations, and even just hanging out at the house with Mom. We would watch movies together, we’d often read the same books and discuss them. We had a lot in common, and it was like having a friend as well as a mother.” Joe recalls moments when breast cancer wasn’t a major factor in their lives, but also recalls happy memories when it was.

Mom's Letter From Heaven Inspries Her Son

The letter, Joe told us, inspired Joe to take a leap of faith a decade after his mother had passed on. While working as a digital marketing freelancer, Joe had a chance meeting with CircleIt Founder & CEO, Art Shaikh. “I met Art because he was looking for digital marketing help for a company called ‘CircleIt’. I had never heard of the company, but I was always ready for new clients in my business. When I finally had a discussion with Art, I immediately thought of my mom. When he told me his story and what his father had done, I instantly felt a kinship because my mom had done something similar. I know what a comfort that letter was and still is to me, and how that could benefit anyone going through what I did.”

Joe saw an opportunity to spread the word about CircleIt, which he knew would help millions worldwide as they struggle with breast cancer. “One of the hardest things was hearing my mom talk about how badly she wanted to see me off into the world, and how she knew deep down that it wouldn’t happen.”

CircleIt gives families the opportunity to be there, even after they’re gone. By simply preparing a message on CircleIt, you can schedule it to arrive on any future date or for any future milestone. “I think a lot about what could happen to the letter if I didn’t store it properly. There could be a fire, flooding, or other issues. It’s a piece of paper, so it is susceptible to any number of damaging forces. By having these important messages handled digitally, technology can ensure that they are preserved forever.”