October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; a month that has taken on a whole new meaning to me. My name is Karen Clark and I have been a competitive natural Women’s Body Builder since 2003.
This picture was taken last September 2012, before my last show. 2 months after this picture, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
Shocked, beyond belief, I just could not comprehend why or how this could be happening to me….no family history and no evident symptoms. My 2nd ever annual, routine mammogram uncovered the early stages of breast cancer. The morning after having learned of my diagnoses, I was immediately on the phone making appointments with several doctors in hopes of them telling me this was all a mistake. I got 3 different opinions and 3 exactly the same…..all confirming I DID have breast cancer.
I was given 2 options: 1) a lumpectomy with 7 weeks of radiation treatments, or 2) a mastectomy. After learning the details of what each entailed, I had a decision to make. Bottom line, I wanted to do what would give me the least percent of reoccurrence and the highest quality of life. Radiation and Chemo were my greatest fears. With that said, I opted for a mastectomy. This was a very personal decision but one that suited my personality and way of living. I wanted to never deal with this situation again and more than anything, I wanted to continue my lifestyle of bodybuilding. I was determined.
The month of December was such a huge roller coaster of emotions for me….the wait for surgery seemed to take forever. The doctors suspected it was a slow growing cancer but I felt such an urgency to just get it out of me. I wanted to give it NO opportunity to grow any bigger than it was. Surgery was scheduled for January 7, 2013. The night before surgery, I must admit, I had a slight panic attack wondering if this was the right option for me. But deep in my heart, I knew it was.
Surgery lasted 6 ½ hours. I am sure it seemed like an eternity for my family and friends. I knew immediately when I came to, from the anesthesia, that the doctors thought it went well……my husband’s first words to me were just that. I was in the hospital 2 days before going home. I still had to wait 3 weeks for the results from the testing done during surgery. If the results showed aggressive cancer cells, I would need additional treatment meaning radiation, chemo or an oral medication for the next 5 years. THAT phone call I received was probably the happiest phone call I could have ever gotten….a panel of doctors discussed my case results and determined I was a candidate for no further treatment! At that point, recovering and reconstruction was to follow.
This past Monday, October 7, 2013 marked my 9 month anniversary of being Cancer Free. I am totally cleared and have been back in the gym for a couple of months now. I had to take about 7 months off from serious lifting in order to heal correctly, and it almost feels like I am starting all over. Having just turned 50 in September, I don’t seem to be bouncing back as quickly as I had hoped, but I will get there. I am sure of that.
One of the most amazing things I have experienced going thru this is that the love and support I received was overwhelming. When I thought I did not have the strength, everyone around me said I did. I am so grateful for all the support I had…..it truly was incredible. I look at life differently now ……it’s almost like I am beginning part 2. The silly things that used to bother me before…no longer do…I try to put it all in perspective.
Now, I am back on the road to training in the early morning hours, before I go to my 9-5 job. It’s amazing what that time does for me every morning….it’s MY perfect cup of coffee and sets my tone for the day. I feel so incredibly blessed and fortunate for all that I have. If anything can be taken away from my story, I hope it will be to never lose faith, hope and determination. Anything is possible.