Reclaiming life for Karen McCahey means finding her new normal – her new self.
This proud cancer survivor has had her reality turned upside-down and inside-out from the moment she was diagnosed with stage II invasive lobular breast cancer in February 2016. She noticed a small bruise on her breast, which she questioned when noticing the pea-sized lump. She didn’t panic. Karen knew her body and discussed it with her primary care physician. She mentioned it at her annual appointment a week later.
Karen’s physician ordered a mammogram the next day, even though she wasn’t due for another year. The results were “unusual,” giving pause and a moment to let Karen’s mind even imagine that this could be cancer. Everything accelerated and slowed at the same time: another mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy with the devastating confirmation within days that it was cancer. Karen entered a whole new reality, a new normal.
Four rounds of chemotherapy resulted in an itchy, sore scalp relieved surprisingly by shaving her brown locks of hair clean off. Resenting the ugly stranger in the mirror, Karen questioned who she was and why her body turned on her so quickly. Did she eat something? Was it a new deodorant? Was the cell phone emitting strange waves? What did it matter?
Karen has two beautiful teenaged children. What memory was she going to leave for them? What kind of role model was she going to be?
Four rounds of chemotherapy also resulted in a tumor that shrunk enough for a lumpectomy, which was way better than the thought of a full mastectomy. Karen was feeling hopeful and on a high on June 15 as she went into surgery. It was painful, but she eagerly awaited the results, praying that the margins were clean and that she could move on to radiation, reclaiming her life.
Less than a month later she was back in surgery. The margins were not clean. The pain she felt was no longer for herself, but for her family as they collectively held the weight of the situation. A third surgery the next month resulted in the mastectomy she thought was thwarted only a few short months earlier.
Karen exhibits amazing strength and endurance during the ongoing post-operative procedures in a slow reconstructive process. Don’t think for a minute that any of this has slowed her down.
The Johnston resident volunteers for the American Cancer Society-Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the nation’s leading cancer advocacy organization that works every day to make cancer issues a national priority. She joins Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman Jim Langevin in support of funding for cancer screenings and other early detection programs while looking for a part-time job doing facial skin care and eyelashes. More information about ACS CAN can be found at acscan.org.
Karen is one of a dozen amazing survivors showing their beauty and strength on the runway October 22 at the third annual Pink Party RI held at 6 p.m. at the Varnum Memorial Armory, 6 Main Street, East Greenwich. The Pink Party show features drinks, food, music, raffles, live and silent auctions and, best of all, the beautiful models who are all cancer survivors. Tickets are available for $35 at pinkpartyRI.com or at the door for $40 the night of the event.