This story is about Karen, my high school sweetheart of over 29 years, whom I call an “Amazing Graceful Fighter.” Karen was diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer 3 years ago. After 2 surgeries and 4 rounds of chemo, cancer has knocked Karen down each time, but she continues to get back up and keep fighting. This former military wife and mother of three is still fighting in Stage IV. Cancer has spread to her liver and bowels, and despite severely painful obstructions, Karen is giving it everything she has and maintaining an overall positive outlook.
Karen continues to fight with inspiration, heart, strength, and most of all, grace. She doesn’t sulk, complain, or feel sorry for herself. She might have moments where her limits are exceeded, but she keeps her head up, standing toe-to-toe with cancer, letting it know it hasn’t beat her. That’s Karen, one of the most positive people you will ever meet. Her smile, attitude, personality, and most of all, her great big heart light up everyone she meets. This no-drama girl always leaves a trail of people feeling happier than before they met her, and they never forget her.
Despite going through chemo and painful ascites last October, Karen glowed and shined as mother of the groom at our eldest son’s wedding. She never skipped a beat over the whole weekend, making sure she connected with everyone and even helped with decorating the reception venue.
Karen knows cancer is beatable. Our now 26-year-old son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when he was 15, and today, he wears the battle scars of a survivor. Standing next to Dave was Karen, helping him fight through it all. This family has beat it before, and we will beat it again.
After these past 8 days in the hospital, as usual, Karen has made friends with the hospital staff, from nurses to medical assistants, to housekeeping and food servers. Whenever we take our “walks on the beach,” it’s like walking around the neighborhood. Even though the walks can be painful and wear her out, Karen wants to keep up her strength and, at the same time, get up and keep her systems moving. So she spreads that beautiful, infectious smile to other patients, visitors, and the staff. Me? I’m Karen’s smile assistant.
Speaking of the hospital staff, they are full of rock stars. Dedicated, hard-working, and selfless. My respect and admiration for nurses and medical assistants is already huge, but it keeps growing with each visit. I know there are a lot of other noble professions and people who work long hours, but these people kick ass for long hours, long stretches, and often are not properly appreciated. I sit here dumbfounded amongst inspiring people. Tip your bartenders and servers, and hug your nurses and care providers.
Karen has friends, family, and staff in her corner. We’ve got her back and are on her team, rooting her on, supporting her, backing her up, cheering, praying, sending positive energy. Our faith is unshaken, hope is unbroken, and in the words of Ernest Hemingway, her “courage is grace under fire.”
The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.
This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.