karen-survivor-storyI never thought that it would be me telling a story about the impact cancer has had on my life.

In June of 2017, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductile Carcinoma that was HER2 and Estrogen positive. During my morning routine, I felt a lump in my left breast. I thought, at first, it would go away, but a couple of days later it was still there! After contacting my primary care doctor, she advised me to have a mammogram done. Even though my mammogram was not due for another three months, I listened and had it done. How glad I am that I did! Hesitating or waiting until August could have brought about a different outcome!

Because the type of cancer I was diagnosed with was aggressive, I immediately underwent six rounds of chemo (one 5-hour session every 3 weeks) that seemed to last forever, a double mastectomy, one year of Herceptin (another form of chemo to kill the HER2 protein), reconstruction surgery and unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. After my first round of chemo, I became very ill, at which point I felt close to death. I had what some say is rare, Neutropenia, which is an abnormally low count of a specific white blood cells, which are called neutrophils. In my case, they were below zero! I had pneumonia and a stomach virus that my body could not fight off, which sent me in a downward spiral and landed me in the hospital for over a week.

The hardest thing about finding out I had breast cancer was telling my children. I have two young girls, and to tell them this horrible news was devastating. They both cried because we had just lost my father a few months prior, and my eldest daughter, which was 10 at the time, had a teacher that passed away from cancer a couple of years ago.

During this time, I had a nervous breakdown, a headache that felt as if my head would explode, and hair loss. It was absolutely horrible! The day I came home, my very close and dear friend, Tosha, planned a hair cutting party for me that changed my life with cancer! Some of my closest friends and I toasted to the theme, “NO HAIR, DON’T CARE, I’M BEAUTIFUL”! She was able to get a beautiful hairdresser, to close her shop, cut my hair and treat my scalp, while she set up a backdrop for my photo shoot, recorded and took pictures of the whole thing! I will always have wonderful memories of this time to look back on and smile in my heart!

My advice would be to never give up on you! You are worth every fight, every day you take a breath. Make your life what you want it to be. Don’t be afraid to do something new, or to tell someone your story, you never know who needs to hear it. Exercise such as walking, bike riding or yoga helps with muscle and bone pain. It also helps with the lack of energy. The more you move, the better you will feel!

The secret to staying positive and warding off negativity and frustration is not always easy. I find ways to make myself smile, such as the fact that I am breathing today, or realizing things could be worse. I try my best to show strength through the pain, to show my children that even when things are hard and difficult, you can make it if you just believe. My faith and hope in God gives me the strength and power to keep going. I rest when my body tells me I need it and push forward when I have the energy to do so. I am a fighter and I am determined to never quit, even when frustration comes.

It is so important for friends and loved ones to support those who are going through cancer because cancer isolates you. We gain strength from God, our Faith, Hope and those who surround us with love and support! Today, I am FREE FROM CANCER! I am ALIVE, I have a work to do! I may have some scars, but I am healed, and I am GRATEFUL EVERY DAY!

For more inspiring stories like Karen’s visit our Survivor Stories, or share your own!