Valley Lives - Karena Bellaar Spruyt

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the November 05, 2014 issue. Reprinted with permission.

A match too late for loving mother

by Anastasia Philopoulos

Valley Lives
Karena Bellaar Spruyt with daughter Sabine, who turned one just days after her mother's death. Photos courtesy Erin Kuhns.

Erin Kuhns fondly remembers the summer she was 14; she was barely home, always at the Bellaar Spruyt farm in Lascelles, working alongside her best friend Karena Bellaar Spruyt.

"We grew up down the road from each other, " Kuhns recalls. "It was one of the best summers of my life."

The girls would work the farm, taking breaks to go for a swim in the nearby lake, and ending hot summer days sitting outside on the family deck, eating big beautiful meals with the many friends and relatives the Dutch family would host for the summer. Their perfect summer was even complete with teenage sweethearts.

"We had our summer loves, we each had a Dutch boyfriend that summer, " Kuhns said with a chuckle.

It's the details of that summer and their many years of friendship the two women shared throughout the final weeks of Bellaar Spruyt's life. "We were sisters in the sense that we loved each other," Kuhns said.

Bellaar Spruyt died on Oct. 19 at the age of 43 after a brief battle with an extremely rare and life threatening disease called severe aplastic anemia. She was diagnosed with the disease this past summer, her health deteriorating rapidly.

Kuhns confirmed the heartwrenching news that a bone marrow match had been found for Bellaar Spruyt, who was being prepared for the procedure when she died.

Valley Lives
Karena and first-born, Kaya. Photos courtesy Erin Kuhns.

"She would have had to do radiation and chemo and then the transplant," Kuhns explained. "But she ended up with bleeding in the brain and at that point there was nothing they could do."

Among many family members and loved ones, Bellaar Spruyt leaves behind a 19-year-old daughter, Kaya, and one year old daughter, Sabine. "She loved her kids fiercely. As much as a mother can love her kids, that was Karena," Kuhns said.

Kaya Bellaar Spruyt described her mother as an artistic, passionate, and lively woman; someone who loved to be outside skiing or snowboarding, and whose strength was inspiring.

"I'm proud because I know I'm her daughter and she's made me who I am. I know I wouldn't be as strong as I am without having had her," Kaya said.

Now back in Montreal, Kaya is studying sociology at Concordia, and says she's taking the loss of her mother one day at a time. "I didn't expect myself to go back to normal. It's been really overwhelming."

Her little sister, Sabine, just celebrated her first birthday on Oct. 22, only days after her mother's death. And while it was bittersweet for the family, Kaya says she knew it would have been what her mother wanted. "I'm glad we did it. She loved birthday parties and birthdays."

Sabine is in the care of their father, James Racicot, but Kaya adds that she'll always be involved in her sister's upbringing. "I'm always going to be there for her. There's no question about that."

A memorial service at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Lascelles will be held to celebrate the life of Karena Bellaar Spruyt on Nov. 30 starting at 2:30 p.m. Reception to follow at the Rupert Hall.

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