At this time of year, we naturally reflect back on the many cancer survivors that we have had the honor of “meeting” over the past 19 years. We have also been blessed with an amazing staff, nearly half of whom are survivors themselves. We thought it’s about time we introduced you to some of them, as each one has a powerful story to tell!
Choose Hope Survivors – Karen’s Story
Karen came to us in a roundabout way, as did many of our survivors here at Choose Hope. For nearly 25 years, she worked as a radiation therapist at a local clinic. Working with cancer patients on a regular basis, Karen was continually providing not only radiation treatment, but hope, inspiration and encouragement to all of her patients. But what happens when the oncology professional becomes the patient?
In early 2012, Karen felt a lump in her left breast while doing a self-check. She scheduled an appointment and the doctor was quick to assure her that, because of her young age of 45 and the fact that Karen had fibrocystic breast tissue, she was 99% sure that this was simply a cyst. But Karen felt in her gut that something was wrong. The doctor listened to Karen’s concerns and ordered a mammogram and an ultrasound. While the mamo showed nothing, the ultrasound did show an abnormality. A biopsy quickly confirmed it was stage 2 invasive breast cancer.
Surgery followed three weeks later – Karen opted for a double mastectomy. A choice based on many abnormal mammograms and 2 breast biopsies over the previous 7 years. Karen believed strongly that “breasts do not define a woman.” Eight months of chemotherapy followed the surgery.
Living After Cancer
The end of her cancer journey provided a turning point for both Karen and her husband, Brian. Karen made the challenging decision to leave the medical profession that she had been in since college. She was determined to find a job that provided her with less stress but would also allow her to continue to interact with cancer patients and their families – just a new way of living!
It just so happened that Karen lived next door to Paula, one of the co-founders of Choose Hope. When Paula approached Karen about a position at Choose Hope, Karen didn’t hesitate – it was exactly what she wanted and needed at this time in her life. And little did Choose Hope know how much we needed Karen.
Today, five years later, Karen is a valued member of our customer service team, and she regularly chats with newly diagnosed patients. Since many of our customers love to share their own story, Karen enjoys listening and offering words of encouragement and positivity.
Karen celebrates her life every day. She and her husband, Brian, love to cook and entertain. Anyone is blessed to be invited over for a glass of wine and a wonderful meal. They travel as much as they can and love trying out new adventures. Life is for living!
When asked what she took away from her cancer journey, Karen simply says, “Enjoy every day and take nothing for granted.” Advice we can all take to heart.
Over six years later, Karen is grateful for all that life has given her. She knows she took all possible steps to prevent a recurrence, but not living was simply not an option for her. She truly embodies the spirit of someone who always chooses hope, and all of us at Choose Hope are better people for knowing Karen.