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Karla Cruz, 12, loses her struggle

By: Carol Feineman News Messenger Editor
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Services: Karla Cruz’s viewing and rosary will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Sept 13 at St. Joseph Catholic Church off of Highway 193 and Oak Tree Lane. Karla’s funeral will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 14 at the church, followed by burial at the Santa Clara Cemetery off of Third Street. A reception will be at St. Joseph Parish Hall on 6th and D streets. To donate: Funds to help the family pay for Karla Cruz’s funeral can be made at Umpqua Bank under the Karla Cruz account. To donate food for the family during this difficult period, call 645-0567. Sunday, Sept. 16 haircut fundraiser – From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Attitudes Hair Salon, 595 McBean Park Drive. Haircuts will be $10 and all proceeds go to Karla Cruz’s family. Karla Cruz, 12, loses her struggle By Carol Feineman News Messenger Editor After hoping that 12-year-old Karla Cruz was recovering from bone cancer, her family is now grieving. The Lincoln 6th-grader unexpectedly died last Thursday from leukemia. For the past 13 months, she had chemotherapy to shrink her leg tumor and then to tumors that were found in her lungs. But she was doing much better, according to mother Deborah Gutierrez, and the doctor was going to give Karla permission to soon return to school. Karla was homeschooled after being diagnosed last year with bone cancer. “She was fighting it very hard. Last Thursday, she was going to have lung surgery to remove lung tumors to see if they were killed,” Gutierrez said. “And then she was going to start at Glen Edwards Middle School.” Karla, a former Creekside Oaks Elementary School student, was excited to return to school, “Her doctor gave her clearance that, if last Thursday’s surgery came back OK, she could go back to school,” Gutierrez said. “She wrote it on every calendar, circled the date on every calendar, that she was going back to school.” That sadly never happened and this has turned into a surreal time for Karla’s family. “She was fine. I took her to the doctor last Tuesday to see why she had bruises on her arms and she never came home,” Karla’s mother said. “She was diagnosed with leukemia last Tuesday and then she passed away last Thursday. When she was at the hospital, she said, ‘Don’t worry, I just have bruises, I’m coming home soon. It all happened so fast.” That optimistic spirit is what her mother and her two sisters described to The News Messenger this week. Karla always downplayed her own fears and pain because she didn’t want to upset her family. “She was always happy, regardless of how sick she was. Karla always had her spirits up,” said sister Virginia Gutierrez. “No matter how sick she was, she put everyone else first. She wouldn’t complain so we could have fun.” Their mother agreed. “When she was homeschooled all last year because of the chemo,” Deborah Gutierrez said, “she never complained. Sometimes, she didn’t tell us how bad she felt because she didn’t’ want us to worry. And yet Karla loved her life, although she was sick, Virginia Gutierrez said. Karla’s other sister, Evelyn Gutierrez-Jennings, added that Karla never said a word about her troubles, although Carla was “in a lot of pain, sick a lot from chemo, and tired.” “She always had a smile on her face. She loved her 8-month-old niece, Andalynn,” Evelin Gutierrez-Jennings said. “She took care of her, changed her diapers, played with her for hours.” Even though Karla was feeling extremely tired and not feeling well. Karla “was a fighter and she was strong, she couldn’t wait for this to be over,” according to her mother. Karla was also a preteen, who loved basketball, arts and crafts, stringing beads, TV’s “Family Guy” and Sunday lifetime movies, playing games on her Kindle Fire and singers Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne. In her short life, Karla has taught her family how to cope in the face of severe adversity. “Cherish your life. Even when things got bad, she kept herself going,” Virginia Gutierrez said. And her mother learned another hard lesson from Karla. “She taught me how to be a strong person,” Deborah Gutierrez said. “She was always smiling, even while lying in a hospital bed.”