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Meet Karen: cancer survivor and Run Melbourne Champion

In 2013 Karen was diagnosed with bowel cancer and her life was turned upside down. Now five years on, Karen is taking the 5km challenge at this year’s Run Melbourne.

Karen was only 43 when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

“I fell quite ill and knew something wasn’t right”, she said. “I went to hospital but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.”

“When the doctor told me I had bowel cancer, I couldn’t remember anything more he said,” Karen remembers.

Then in August 2013 after six gruelling weeks of chemotherapy treatment, Karen had to have a bowel re-section.

Doctors discovered she also had liver cancer and six weeks later 75% of her liver was removed.

“To hear those words to start off with was devastating, but I thought, ‘I can do this.’ I did and I tried not to let it get me down,” Karen said.

Following this, she endured four more months of chemotherapy, radiation treatment, often concurrently.

“The treatment was the worst thing I have ever experienced,” Karen said. “I had every side effect possible: I lost my tastebuds, I had ulcers, hand-and-foot syndrome…you name it!”

Karen insisted on maintaining a normal life for herself and her family.

“To hear those words to start off with was devastating, but I thought, ‘I can do this.’ I did and I tried not to let it get me down.”

“Even after my first operation, I worked from the hospital bed at my computer,” she recalls. “My husband’s fantastic and did the grocery shopping, and I still took my son to footy training.

“I remember one time I was waiting for him in the car after a footy match, and I had gotten warm and taken my jumper off. It was the first time he’d realised how much weight I lost and my shoulder blades were stocking out. It was a bit of a shock to the system.”

Though day-to-day wasn’t always easy, Karen maintained a level-headed determination and has been in remission since 2014.

Then in 2016, she saw Run Melbourne and Cancer Council pop up on her Facebook.

“My sister used to call the Cancer Council for support as she was living in Perth and needed support so I felt that I needed to give back,” Karen said, “This way, I can do this challenge and support the Cancer Council at the same time.”

She signed up for the Run Melbourne 5k and immediately loved it.

“Finishing my first Run Melbourne was amazing – the atmosphere is so good and you meet so many new people and get motivated as you go.

“The first year I ended up raising about $1,700 by myself and the next year, my sister-in-law Sue came on board and we did a movie fundraiser. It was really successful and lots of fun, everyone got behind it and we raised about $3,000!”

This year, Karen and Sue are going to take on the 5k together and blitz their previous fundraising totals.

“We’re hoping to go bigger and better as more people know about it and we’ve got some experience behind us,” Karen said.

“I didn’t fully understand how much the Cancer Council does until I started fundraising through Run Melbourne.

“Last year I went to a talk from one of their researchers and it was really good to know that my fundraising goes towards all the amazing support and research that they do.”

Inspired by Karen’s story? Register for Run Melbourne 2018

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