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Karen's Story

The Kindness For Karen Foundation was created by the Ruda Family as a non-profit community foundation in memory of Karen A. Ruda; loved mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.

Karen was born on November 17, 1958 in Carbondale, PA.  Karen’s passion for helping people sparked her professional career in healthcare.  In 1978, while studying to be a respiratory therapist at the Robert Packer Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy, she met her soulmate, David.  It was love at first sight and they married on October 7, 1978.


In 1982, Karen began her journey into motherhood with the welcome of her first child, Jason. 

Soon after, her family grew as she welcomed her daughters Anjelica and Marissa into the world.  Motherhood was Karen’s true calling.  Following her children through their academic career, Karen remained close, working in their schools and always an avid supporter of their achievements.


On September 13, 2013, life took a drastic turn. 


Karen was taking her nightly bath when she stepped out of the tub and heard a loud “pop” in her chest.  Her first thought was that she might have broken her clavicle or torn a muscle.  Thankfully, she was working at the local health system at the time and got an x-ray first thing the next morning.


Upset that it was the second time that week she was seeing her primary care doctor, she was speechless as they read her diagnosis.  It wasn’t a fracture or torn muscle…it was the unthinkable…a tumor had collapsed her lung.  Karen’s world came crashing down around her as she heard her doctor say, “you have Stage 4 lung cancer”.


The next few days were filled with questions, anger, doubt, and depression.  Trips back and forth to the doctor’s office, tests, scans, and blood work made life overwhelming and scary – for both Karen and her family.


After a successful trip to New York City to see a lung cancer specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Karen was given a sliver of hope that she would have 18 months if she was accepted into a trial program that isolated a specific gene she carried.  This was a small reprieve in the chaos that was her life the previous two weeks.


The night she returned home from NYC, Karen suffered a stroke while having dinner with her husband and daughter Marissa.  She was rushed to the hospital and stabilized. 


The nurses and medical team at Guthrie Clinic found out that it was her and David’s 35th wedding anniversary the following day and arranged a 5-star surf and turf dinner for the lovebirds right there in the hospital.  Karen fell asleep that night with love in her heart and hope for her future.  No one would have guessed that when she fell asleep that night, she wouldn’t ever wake up.


In the middle of the night, a tumor, the size of a small grapefruit, dislodged and severed Karen’s brainstem. 


Her family rushed to the hospital to say their goodbyes and on October 9, 2013, only 3 ½ weeks after her initial diagnosis, Karen passed away.


Karen’s optimism and joyful personality drew out the best in those around her.  She lived the virtues of generosity, care, love and kindness each day. By her example, she continues to inspire others to reconnect with our own humanity and pay it forward to others through small acts of kindness.


"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see"

Mark Twain

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