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!


  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.


  3. Joyce says:

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


  4. Vivian L says:

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


  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.


  6. Alice says:

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


  7. Linda Lynn says:

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


  8. Nancy says:

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


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