Karissa Alana Hahn, a woman who personified strength and grace in the face of obstacles, ended her five-year battle with cancer August 28. She was 35.
Karissa inspired those around her as she refused to let cancer get in the way of life. Between chemo treatments and doctor’s appointments, Karissa could be found hiking with her husband Mike, doing science experiments with her two boys, or planning adventures with her mom and sister. Every Thursday, Karissa donned a pink lab coat and volunteered at Somerset Medical Center’s patient boutique, helping fellow patients pick wigs and scarves – she’d advise them on what looked best with their complexions – and processing medical billing in the back office.
“No matter how difficult the situation was, Karissa would never show it,” her friend Winnie wrote. “She is the most positive person that I have known. When I needed advice from her (mostly over silly stuff like job interviews and baby advice), she was always like a big sister to me – to comfort and guide me through.”
Karissa’s blog, On Beyond Cancer, reached people around the world, and she helped start a support group for young women with cancer. She raised money for breast cancer research, modeled in fashion shows for the cure and posed as “Mrs. August” in a breast cancer calendar.
Karissa had a studious side as well. A valedictorian at Keyport High School, she studied biology at Rutgers University and completed a master’s degree in public health. She worked as a medical researcher at UMDNJ, where she crunched numbers for medical studies and helped investigate a wide range of diseases.
It was at Rutgers that she met Mike Hahn, her husband and partner in life. After Mike proposed (following the Rutgers tradition of popping the question at Passion Puddle), they were married April 25, 2003. They have two sons, Ethan and Ryan — who inherited her smarts, her analytical nature and her good humor. Karissa enjoyed spending time with family, whether it be reading books or sewing giant stuffed snakes. She was a mom who made things fun, constantly researching new parks to visit and different crafts to try. She served as an example to new moms – who could often expect a care package of kids’ clothes or baby toys from her in the mail.
“She lived every day to the fullest and taught us much about what it meant to live,” said her friend, Pam. “She left the world a better place by her presence in it.”
In addition to her husband and her children, Karissa is survived by her parents, Margie and Tom Fischer and Bill and Tina Clarke; her grandfather, John Clarke; her in-laws Jeff and Jolene Hahn; and her sister Sara Clarke-Lopez. She is loved by many and will be missed by her aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course, her friends.
A viewing and service will be held Sunday, August 31, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Bridgewater Funeral Home, 707 East Main Street, Bridgewater, NJ. Karissa will be buried at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Keyport. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a college fund for her children, care of Michael Hahn, Trustee.