Monday, October 25, 2010

Cancer Sucks!

Those of you who have known me since 2008 or before are aware of my past participation in the Breast Cancer 3-Day with my friend, Kathy--in Kansas City in 2006, Seattle in 2007 and the Twin Cities in 2008. (I probably asked you for money.) During that time, we produced a periodic newsletter to share our training and fundraising progress as well as information about breast cancer.

In most issues we had a feature called "Profile in Courage" which was about someone who was fighting breast cancer, or who had survived it or who had lost their life to this $%$#ing disease. These articles were often contributed by people we know about someone they loved. In at least three cases, the person who was featured was fighting the disease and has since lost the battle. I'm sad to say, tonight I learned of a fourth.

Karen passed away on Friday. I didn't know her well. In fact, I didn't know her at all until we featured her in our newsletter in May of 2006. Her daughter and niece submitted the article. She was a co-worker of Kathy's. She was one of our biggest supporters. She volunteered with us at Starlight to help us raise money. She was at our vendor party last fall to support Kathy and Kathi in the Phoenix walk (I retired). She read every newsletter and, I found out last year, shared them with her daughter and family.
She was a strong woman, a loving mother, and a doting grandmother. Below is her Profile in Courage.

Profile in Courage—Karen McCommas
(Contributed by her daughter, Amanda Dey and her niece, Shelly Ballesteros)

Breast cancer awareness has always been part of our family - our maternal grandmother had a bilateral radical mastectomy long before either one of us can remember. Her victory over breast cancer provided proof to her daughters (and granddaughters) that being diagnosed with breast cancer was not a death sentence. For the females of the family that meant monthly breast self-exams and regular mammograms.

My mother (and aunt), Karen McCommas, was no exception. She performed her self-exams and had regular mammograms until we moved from Texas to Kansas in November 2005. I had given birth just before the move and as always, my mother was there to help. Instead of finding a job immediately she took care of my newborn for six months. She then began her job search— after temp jobs, leaving a permanent job, and then waiting for insurance to kick in at her current employment, it had been around two years since her last mammogram.

In August 2006 she discovered a lump on the side of her left breast. The biopsy results came back positive for breast cancer. By September 2006 she had a left mastectomy with a second surgery to retrieve lymph nodes that were missed during the original surgery. The lymph nodes showed almost complete replacement of normal cells with cancer cells so the treatment plan was an aggressive one.

Every two weeks she received chemotherapy and then would give herself injections every day for 10 days following treatment. She scheduled her treatments for Fridays so she could rest over the weekend and return to work on Monday. Even after sleepless nights and all the side effects of the chemo she still went to work every day. She is still going through Radiation treatment which should be finished by May.

Throughout it all, Karen has maintained that positive and bubbly attitude we know and love her for. She has never complained, never let being diagnosed or going through the various treatments get her down or prevent her from living her life. Karen is an amazing woman, full of courage and an enormous amount of strength.

Having breast cancer has never prevented Karen from the joys of being a wonderful Nana to my very active 2 ½ year old. She has been the epitome of strength – reminding us all that no matter what life gives you, you can overcome any obstacle.