Gift of Hope 2017 – Kaitlyn & Jared

Couple gets a second chance after cancer, personal tragedy and natural disaster.

Baton Rouge couple wins Gift of Hope IVF Grant 2017, a free round of in vitro fertilization.

At 21 years old, Jared Guzzardo faced the biggest challenge of his life. After being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, tests revealed a softball-sized tumor inside his chest and he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Months of chemotherapy and radiation followed, but proactive steps initiated by Jared’s mom ensured the future of his children: she arranged for Jared to freeze his sperm prior to his treatments.

Fast forward a few years when Jared and Kaitlyn met in October 2013. “I still remember the feeling I felt the day we met; it was like I had known him my entire life,” says Kaitlyn. “He is my rock and makes this world a better place.” Kaitlyn at the time was on the verge of completing nursing school. She had just met the man of her dreams, had a strong support system of family and friends and believed nothing could go wrong.

However, a month later, her mother was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive and lethal neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The diagnosis was devastating for Kaitlyn who was extremely close to her mother. But a year later, more hardship rocked her family when her older brother died from a drug overdose. Then, four months after her brother passed away, Kaitlyn’s mom succumbed to ALS.

The loss of her brother and mother made Kaitlyn’s world feel like it had stopped.

For months she felt numb all over and prayed daily for peace and happiness to come back to her. Then Jared asked her to marry him one night surrounded by family and friends in the place they first met. The proposal and subsequent planning for their wedding helped lift her up and helped her learn to celebrate life and be happy again. What really mattered was the people they loved in their lives.

Two months before their wedding, tragedy in the form of a natural disaster presented Kaitlyn and Jared with yet another setback. The Great Flood of 2016 filled their rented home with three feet of water, destroying everything they owned. Seeing all their belongings that they had worked so hard for stacked up in a pile at the street taller than their house was hard to take. While losing everything was difficult, they once again learned that what was truly important was the safety and love of family.

Jared is now five years cancer free, but the chemotherapy and radiation has made him unable to father a child. Without the foresight of his mother concerned about her son’s future, this reality would have been final. But with frozen sperm, Jared and Kaitlyn now have a path towards pregnancy and child of their own. Winning the Gift of Hope IVF Grant 2017 may give them this chance. “He is a true warrior,” says Kaitlyn, “and he has taught me how to battle through the worst and make the best out of life.”