Faces of Survival: Karen Swenson

A monthlong series of profiles



FAMILY: Steve, my wonderful husband of 39 years; eight terrific grown children; nine precious grands -- eight boys and one girl.

OCCUPATION: Social worker

DIAGNOSED: Oct. 30, 2003

WHAT HELPED: My faith, family and friends. I also had friends in the medical field who answered my questions and listened as I worked through the challenge I was facing. As I researched, they were there to help me sort through the info. The love of my family and friends was remarkable. It didn't make me feel sad, but victorious.

OUTLOOK: I owned my cancer and my recovery. Also, I didn't immediately make decisions regarding my treatment. I researched, talked, prayed, then decided. It made me feel less like a victim and more like a fighter.

ADVICE: Don't be afraid to be real! It's not like we let it all hang out to everyone, but I had to be real with the people I trusted and loved. Mostly that was positive outlook and hope. But some days it was fear and pain. It was not a time for me to put on some front that was insincere and then be swallowed up by loneliness and self-pity. Being real and trusting in the Lord kept me balanced. And, believe it or not, I laughed ... a lot!

PERSONAL: It was important to me to journal. I was able to express my deepest thoughts and emotions. It was an invaluable outlet and now a priceless memory. Also, being assertive with the doctors was important. I couldn't just become totally passive and feel I didn't have a say in my own recovery and survival. I trusted their knowledge, but I felt it important to voice my questions, doubts and concerns.