After surviving breast cancer and a double mastectomy, Karen was determined to get her health back on track. She discovered 12WBT and is now fitter – and happier – than ever. She is now getting ready to tackle the Mother’s Day Classic fun run and walk on Sunday 12 May.
When Karen felt a lump in her breast just before Christmas 2010, she immediately knew something wasn’t right. “I didn’t think it was cancer, though,” she recalls. “I was only 39, it’s not in my family and I wasn’t in a high-risk category.”
Karen and her family in August 2010.
So the Brisbane-based mother of two tried to enjoy the festivities – which came at the end of a month off from her job as an executive assistant – and avoided thinking about the doctor’s appointment she had booked for the New Year. Nevertheless, after just two hours back at the office in January 2011, Karen received the news that would see her off work for eight months.
“My doctor told me I had stage three breast cancer, and that I needed to see a surgeon that afternoon,” she says. “When I did, I was asked to decide whether to have one or both breasts removed.”
A Tough Choice
Given just a night to make her decision, Karen admits she didn’t sleep a wink. “I remember saying to my husband, ‘I’m not ready to die’. But the best thing about it happening quickly was that there wasn’t a lot of time to think about it,” she says. “There was only cancer in one breast, but I decided to have a double mastectomy. I just thought, ‘I’m only 39, I’ve got two kids, two stepkids, a husband – I’m going to do whatever I have to.’”
What she worried most about, though, was how her family would cope with the news. “The hardest part was having to tell our children. Telling the kids, ‘Mum’s sick but she’s going to be fine’ was so hard, because we really didn’t know at that stage whether I would be okay. And I couldn’t tell my Dad – I had to get my husband to.”
Karen and her Dad during chemo.
After an emotional journey through her double mastectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to remove her ovaries, Karen was finally cleared of cancer—and discovered a new perspective.
New Lease On Life
“They say cancer changes you, and it really has made me a better person. I’m a lot calmer, a lot more patient, and I don’t sweat the small stuff. It sounds like a cliché but it’s true,” she says.
Suddenly, her health had become, quite literally, the fight of her life. “One of the best ways to stop cancer recurring is to be healthy and maintain a regular weight. It wasn’t until I had no breasts that I looked down and realised how big my stomach was. It was a big shock.”
When a colleague at her office signed up for 12WBT, Karen decided to bite the bullet, too. “I’d been exercising, but my nutrition wasn’t right,” she says. Now halfway through the first round, she says she loves the fitness she’s gained from boxing and karate and the friends she’s made through the Sunshine Coast 12WBT workout group, not to mention the loss of 12 kilos since Pre-Season.
Halfway through Round 1.
She loves her new lifestyle so much that she’s signed up for the Sunshine Coast Mother’s Day Classic, a decision she says is motivated by the same reason she offered to share her story—to raise awareness of why our health is so important. “I never imagined I’d be doing anything like this a few months ago. But if it helps one person, I’m happy,” she says. “People just need to be aware.”
Join the thousands of Australians like Karen that are taking part in the Mother’s Day Classic fun run and walk on Sunday 12 May 2013. It’s a great way to celebrate Mother’s Day in a healthy way and raise funds for breast cancer research. 12 Week Body Transformation is a National Gold Sponsor of the event and we would love to have you on our team!