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Not taking a moment for granted: Karen Rice


Life was going well until I had a head-on collision with not only breast cancer, but also colon cancer. Afterward, it seems as if the cancer brought on other related illnesses, including lymphedema, chronic/neuropathic pain, diabetes, afib (a heart condition) and stage 3 kidney disease.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. I had a knot in my breast that kept growing, which I ignored for some time. Once I decided to have it evaluated, I was misdiagnosed the first time. When I went back a second time, an ultrasound revealed the cancer.

The colon cancer was more of a surprise because I thought my symptoms were due to hemorrhoids, so I just let it go for a while. One day, the pain became a little extreme, and I felt deep inside my soul that something more serious was going on. However, the possibility of colon cancer never crossed my mind.

When I had a colonoscopy, stage-three colon cancer was found. I was shocked not only by the diagnosis, but by having to battle cancer yet again. All I could do was think, “Why me?” I was angry, until I was not. All I wanted to do going forward was to get right on it and fight with all my might.


My approach has been to not let my illnesses define me as the “woman with cancer.” I did not want to feel as if I am excluded because I have cancer. Yes, I had it, but it did not have me. So, I decided to fight with all I had to get through it, because I had grandchildren coming into the world, and I needed to be here for them. So, I continued to live as if I were not fighting cancer and kept a cheerful outlook because somehow, I knew I would be OK; I had something to live for.

One great thing about my breast cancer (hard to say) is that it was found early. I had a total mastectomy, yet no chemo. But my colon cancer was different. My doctor stated that I had no choice but to undergo chemo and radiation. Of course, I was upset about it initially, but for some reason, I was not that bothered about it any longer. It is as if my mind was set on just getting better. I had beat cancer once, and with or without chemo, I was going to beat it again; I just knew it. So, I was no longer afraid to fight.

At the time, I was caring for my mother who was going through Alzheimer’s, which was a task. So, I really did not have too much time to worry about what I was dealing with. The fight I had in me for my mother was the same determination I had to beat cancer. And as stated previously, I had two grandkids that came into the world as I was going through cancer. I had important reasons to fight as hard as I did.


The hardest part of my journey was that I felt like I was being punished for something I did in life, especially after being diagnosed the second time. But when I considered the children who were going through or had been through cancer, I thought to myself, “What could they possibly have done to have it placed upon them?” That made me certain it was not a punishment, but an illness that had just happened.


My life now is full of doing what I want to do and enjoying everything. At age 67, I am a freelance model — something I’ve always dreamed of doing — and I am taking it now as far as I can. Surely, I will never be a famous model, but I’m a model anyway and will do this until I can’t. On top of that, I am enjoying life to the fullest with my grandkids,

I have adapted quite well, and I love sharing my experience with others. I am not taking one moment for granted, I am enjoying it all. I was left here for a reason, and that is to share how I got through it all and inspire and give hope to others.

I have written two books since my diagnosis and am working on a third. I am working on possibly going back to school for my bachelor’s degree and continuing to seek other opportunities to achieve.


My advice to others who are facing a serous health challenge is to have faith. Believe that you can make it through this and that you will fight with all you have inside. Allow yourself to feel the way you do, no matter what it may be. Always be open to change, open to the treatments that are ahead of you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is your body going through something you’ve never experienced before, and you deserve the best.

Always seek the support of friends and family. I preferred to suffer in silence, but on my better days, I wanted loved ones around. They made me almost forget what I was going through with kind words and laughter.

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