Karen was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in 2019 when she was 48. As her family has a history of cancer, she always thought that one day it might happen to her – just not until she was much older.
Getting through the endless round of surgery, chemo and radiotherapy, while she was halfway through a sociology degree, was tough.
Karen remembers: “Some days, I wondered how I would make it through the cancer treatments and surgery, would I ever pass my degree and graduate and would I ever make it to journalism college? Other days, I thought what if the cancer spreads again and I don’t respond well to the chemotherapy? What if I die before my 50th birthday? Every day thinking would life ever be normal for me again after my cancer and the pandemic?
Despite being told that she would have to wear colostomy bags for the rest of her life and having to have additional surgery, as the cancer had spread to her vagina, Karen refused to be defined by her cancer.
“It is very hard to process and you grieve for the body you once had, while coming to terms with your new post-surgery body, complete with stoma hole and surgery scars. But I wasn’t going to let cancer prevent me from obtaining my degree and pursuing a career in broadcasting and journalism.
“The six months of chemotherapy really took it out of me. I also developed sepsis half way through. The oncology nurses at Solihull hospital were amazing, very kind, really supportive and always cheery. When it was my 50th birthday, I had chemotherapy on that very day. The nurses joked it was my present from the NHS.
“It was an exhausting up and down journey, feeling sick with the chemotherapy and living off ginger nut biscuits, cheese and coleslaw sandwiches and drinking Lucozade, which were the only things I could keep down.
The radiotherapy treatment that Karen received was a particularly painful experience. She found the general Cancer Kit sent to her by Cancer Support UK very helpful:
“It’s a wonderful goody bag of rest and relaxation with products to exercise the mind. My Cancer Kit was a little piece of heaven, which left me feeling supported.”
Now aged 51, Karen is currently in remission from cancer and has been diagnosed with a benign brain tumour. Despite this, she says: “I am embracing my new life and enjoying being alive. It’s a different life, but one where I can hold my head up high and say I survived cancer.”
Karen graduated in September 2020 with a BA Hons in Sociology and then graduated from journalism college in November 2021. She is now studying to become a travel journalist and travel writer.
Our Cancer Kits include a range of practical items for adults and children currently experiencing cancer. They provide handy items that people will find genuinely useful during their treatment. We have Cancer Kits, Chemo Kits, Comfort Kits (for people over 65) and Kids’ Kits, which we supply free of charge and can be ordered directly from our website.