By: Elizabeth Osterberger
Karen Bertrand met me on an unusually bright and warm October day for our photo session. Her dark hair and bright smile lightened the day even more, she really should look into being a fashion model!
As a young woman Karen says, "In the late fall of 2004, I went for a checkup at my doctor's office as I was having some pain under my right arm. The nurse practitioner performed a breast exam but did not feel any lumps. She asked me if I wanted to pursue this and I said yes. They scheduled me for an ultrasound and mammogram. It showed a suspicious dark spot in my right breast. They did a biopsy with cyst aspiration that same day. Two weeks before Christmas I received my results while I was at the mall shopping with my three year old daughter. My husband called and asked me to come home. The doctor had come by the house and delivered my test results. Little did I know my life was about to change forever! This wasn't at all what I was expecting at age 28! The holidays were among us, my husband had recently returned from a tour in Iraq and we were planning to have another baby soon. All I could think about was my daughter and how much I wanted to be around to watch her grow up. I was willing to do whatever it took to beat this!"
Karen was determined to beat this not only for herself but for her family. "On December 29, 2004, I underwent surgery to remove the tumor in my right breast for invasive ductal carcinoma. This was followed by 37 rounds of radiation, tamoxifen and 2 years of hormonal injections to shut down the estrogen as the tumor was estrogen positive. This was not an easy experience to go through but I had to survive for my family and most of all, I needed to be here to spread awareness to other women, young and old. Three years ago my husband and I were blessed with a son. We named him Noah. I truly believe he is God's miracle. I have learned that cancer has no limits. Being educated, knowing your risks and performing breast exams can save your life. I believe in early detection and that is the reason I am here. I am always glad to share my story and help to inspire others. "
As a great advocate for awareness Karen is grateful for what Susan G. Komen does. "Susan G. Komen has impacted my life in many ways. A few years ago I did my first race for the cure with my husband. We had a great time and I was able to meet other survivors and hear their stories. It was a wonderful experience. Susan G. Komen gives me the feeling of hope and inspiration. It says to me that there is always going to be someone out there fighting for a cure no matter what! I am also very thankful for this opportunity that Susan G. Komen has given me as survivor of the month. This experience will allow me to share my story with others and spread awareness to women young and old. I am honored to be able to do this and most of all help to inspire others."
Karen states "the message I would like for people to understand is, you do not choose to get breast cancer, it chooses you. It doesn't have to be a death sentence! I believe in early detection, knowing your risks, performing self breast exams and getting mammograms. Early detection can save your life, it saved mine! Being a survivor has been a wonderful experience. I have had the opportunity to meet so many great people along the way and I have several friends, I call my "survivor sisters". As a survivor, I take awareness very seriously. It is important for women to know that this disease not only affects older women but younger women as well every day."