Hello, my name is Karen and I am a Breast Cancer Survivor. My Breast Cancer journey started in December 2005 when I was diagnosed with Stage 0 Breast Cancer.
When the surgeon told me, I thought she must have the wrong room/person, I didn’t see that coming at all. I was busy with my career, travelling, taking classes at the church, family responsibilities, and searching for my soul mate. I didn’t have time for cancer.
A breast cancer nurse told me something I’ll never forget, “This is your life not the doctor’s. Educate yourself about the disease and don’t stop asking questions until you’re able to make the best treatment decision.”
Right then and there, I decided I was going to beat this disease, no matter what the diagnosis. I started by loving myself unconditionally and I stayed positive and upbeat even during the challenging times. I became my own advocate, all the while affirming “I WILL LIVE.”
I tried joining a support group but thought, “I’m not like them,” not knowing that statement would come back to bite me.
I celebrated my five-year anniversary by participating in the Susan G. Komen Walk for a Cure. Cancer was no longer at the forefront of my life, and I thought “Life is great!”
Three years later, in November 2013, I felt a small bump on the same side as the mastectomy. I was diagnosed with a reoccurrence and I heard myself screaming on the inside, “WHAT? Not this again!”
You would think since this was the second time around it would be a breeze. No, the entire treatment plan was so different and my life was turned upside down. This time I looked for as much help and support as possible. I bonded with a group of ladies from Mercy BC support group. Two of them, Pat and Irene, went to Gilda’s Club Chicago downtown. Pat was so excited about Gilda’s Club; she insisted I meet her at the Clubhouse at Advocate Christ Medical Center.
I became a member in September 2014, and the first time I walked through the Red Door, it felt like home. Everyone who comes through the Red Door is my family because we all have something in common - cancer. It’s a calm, safe place for the entire family as well as a private/confidential space when you are just told some bad news and you need to get it together before you go home to face your family.
As a member and volunteer, I’ve participated in many activities like networking groups, yoga, art, jewelry making, knitting, cooking demo, games and special seminars.
Would I change my journey? NO, this journey literally transformed my life and Gilda’s Club Chicago was part of that transformation.