By Valerie Shelton, Editor
For the last five years, local mother of five Karyn Jakobs has been battling a rare form of cancer.
The 37-year-old was diagnosed with stage three medullary thyroid carcinoma in 2010. She had a large mass removed but the cancer spread to her liver and lungs—lowering her survival rate. The rare cancer affects just 3 percent of all thyroid cancer patients and doesn’t respond to traditional treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. Instead, Jakobs and her family have been searching for alternative treatments—and they found one, an alternative clinic in Mexico that uses stem cell and oxygen treatments.
Before embarking on the journey to Mexico, local non-profit Guardians of the Ribbon: Pink Heals decided to surprise Karyn with its big pink fire truck on Sunday, Aug. 9, in front of her north Fresno home.
While her family was aware the surprise was coming, Karyn had no idea what was going on when she heard sirens ringing outside her door. The timing of the surprise couldn’t have been better, as friends and family members were already gathered at the Jakobs home to celebrate the baptism of Karyn’s daughter Eva.
“I had no idea,” Karyn said. “I was in there slicing cake and we had some friends show up and I thought they wanted to try out our lifegroup. They normally meet during this time and my daughter was baptized so we had even more people over because of that so it worked out.”
When Karyn heard the commotion, she ran outside looking to see if there was a fire, instead she was greeted by dozens of Clovis and Fresno police officers, Clovis firefighters, friends and Pink Heals volunteers, who handed her a bouquet of pink roses one by one before praying over her, giving her a donation for her treatment and inviting her and her family to sign the big pink fire engine.
Lisa Benham, the coordinator of the local Pink Heals chapter, said it is the organization’s goal to show those battling cancer and other diseases that they are loved and supported and that people believe in them. The non-profit boasts a pink fire truck, donated by Clovis Fire and named Alex after a little girl who lost her fight with leukemia. The organization also has a pink police car, donated by the Clovis Police Department, named after Jocelynn, who lost he battle with brain cancer, and a pink motorcycle named Jody Jo, named after a Kiss Country personality who won her fight against breast cancer. A firefighter in Arizona came up with the idea for Pink Heals and there are 53 chapters of the organization nationwide. Each chapter fundraises by going to events and selling T-shirts. The Fresno/Clovis chapter also holds an annual dinner dance fundraiser.
“What really fulfills us is to do this, surprise someone like Karyn so she knows she’s not alone,” Benham said. “We say we’re bringing love, hope and support to somebody who is battling any type of disease, men women and children.”
Benham said she heard about Karyn through her friend Liz Harrison who works for ABC30 with Karyn’s husband Jim Jakobs.
“I called Liz and she said that Karyn really needed us and needed that lift me up before going to Mexico for this alternative treatment to prolong her life, so I knew whatever we could do we wanted to be there because this is what it’s all about,” Benham said. “When we hear of a good visit to do, we go out and do it. We all have full-time jobs so Monday through Friday it’s hard to do, but weekends we do events or do home visits like this.”
Benham continued: “I started the Fresno chapter years ago and the fire chief that overheard me talking about wanting to start this said ‘hey are you interested in a fire truck?’ and I said of course and we’d already been raising money in Alex’s name for children’s hospital so there was no question that our first vehicle would be named after Alex- the front says “Believe in the one that believes in you.” That was something Alex came up with and the word believe is our word and that is because of Alex.”
The number of people Pink Heals has helped cannot be measured, Benham said.
“When you say help, it can be somebody where we’re out at an event and they walk up and start sobbing, that is helping them in a weird way because we’re acknowledging that they’re not alone,” Benham said. “When you read the messages you know we’re helping people grieve too because there are messages to people who have been lost and people feel proud to know they are writing their loved ones name on a vehicle and it is a traveling memorial for them.”
Jim Jakobs said he is grateful to Pink Heals for coming out and showing support for his wife.
“Thank you so much for coming out here and doing this, it means the world to us,” Jakobs said to Pink Heals volunteers. “There is nothing I can give you that would equate to what you are doing here. It is awesome. We’re going to fight this and do everything we can.”
To donate or read regular updates on Karyn, visit http://www.gofundme.com/savingkaryn