Still Alive After Five!

pinkwigIn May of 2004 I found a pea sized lump under my arm while taking a bath. I knew something wasn’t quite right, so I called the breast center to make an appointment for a mammogram the next day. The mammogram didn’t show anything but an ultrasound revealed a growth under my left nipple and confirmed what I felt under my arm. The next procedure was a needle biopsy. I will never forget the moment when my doctor told me I had cancer. Grade III Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I couldn’t believe it was me.
It was then, that my life changed forever.

Within two weeks of the diagnosis, I had a lumpectomy, followed by a second surgery to remove thirteen lymph nodes under my arm. Shortly after the surgeries were four months of chemotherapy, followed by six weeks of radiation. I made the best of my hair loss by trying on different hairstyles. I bought several wigs of different colors and the hot pink wig was my favorite.

My mom lost her battle to cancer just one week before I was given the news I was Stage IV (that’s really bad). I had a PET scan that showed the cancer had spread to my pelvis and lungs. I was devastated but I was determined to do everything possible to beat this thing even after being told I had only a 25% chance of survival after five years. Cancer just took my mother and I wasn’t going to let it take me!

After radiation, I started taking Tamoxifen, a drug that works to keep cancer away for many women who have my type of cancer. I did everything I could including alternative therapies, prayer and meditation to get the cancer out of my body. I even got mad at the cancer and named it the “Bitch”. I visualized killing the enemy lurking inside me every day and told myself that Cancer is stupid because it kills it’s host.

I started to do everything I had put off such as going on a cruise, dancing every day, moving to Arizona and folding more than a thousand cranes. Life is short, after all.
Six months after I had started the healing journey, I had a follow-up PET scan and the results showed that the cancer was gone. My oncologist told me that that the Tamoxifen must be working. I now believe that it was a power inside of me and the love and prayers of my friends and family that helped beat the “Bitch”.

My name is Karen Elaine and I am a cancer warrior.

About Karen Elaine

Artist, author and teacher.
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8 Responses to Still Alive After Five!

  1. thomas gene says:

    bravo ma chère Karen tu es vraiment ça un guerrier vainqueur!! c’est ta ténacité qui a eu raison de cette sale bête! tu mérites comme on dit en français “un grand coup de chapeau ou chapeau bas!!!” je t’aime ma très grande fille!

    Like

  2. Mimi Martyn says:

    I too have been there. I am a 2 times survivor of cancer. 1988, left breast, 1997 left breast.
    Keep fighting. Possibly you would consider forming a team for your local Relay For Life.

    Like

  3. Joyce says:

    You have more to accomplish on this earth. Go for it!!

    Like

  4. Vivian L says:

    Thank you for sharing this story! I am so glad you are alive!!! BRAVO!!!

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  5. Jennie says:

    Hi Karen, I just purchased your Origami book (beautiful book, can’t wait to try the projects!). I stumbled upon your blog for the first time and felt compelled to write. I am so happy to hear that you are doing well. I’m sad to say my dad passed away last April of lung cancer only after about 4-weeks of chemo/radiation. I wish he would have been “one of the lucky ones” too. Thank you so much for sharing your story and I wish you continued good health.

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  6. Alice says:

    Hey Karen inspiration woman. Congratulations. Keep fighting, creating and going for what you want. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. Linda Lynn says:

    Karen,
    You have always impressed me with your creativity. I am glad you defeated the “Bitch”
    Linda

    Like

  8. Nancy says:

    Wow, I am glad to hear you have not only surrived but are living a full and rich life.

    Like

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