Hype about a hair­cut

Shearstown wo­man speaks about her bat­tle with can­cer

The Compass - - P2011ORTHTE - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

For most of us, a hair­cut is no big deal. We get one when­ever the need arises. How­ever, for Karen Short of Shearstown, a hair­cut in July was a mile­stone.

“This is not a wig, my man,” she says with a broad smile. “This is my hair.”

It’s quite the state­ment from some­one who in re­cent times has weath­ered sev­eral vi­cious storms of life, in­clud­ing can­cer.

The first bat­tle hit the Short fam­ily on Dec. 10, 2007. That morn­ing, Karen found her 15-year-old son Stephen on the bath­room floor, dead from car­diac ar­rest caused by a seizure.

On May 12, 2010, Karen’s doc­tor used the dreaded “c” word when speak­ing with her : can­cer of the womb.

On Nov. 3, 2010, Karen’s fa­ther, John ( Jack) Holmes, died from Bin­swanger’s dis­ease, a form of de­men­tia.

In an in­ter­view with The Com­pass late last year, Karen re­acted mat­terof-factly, say­ing, “I just leave it all in God’s hands.”

To­day, at 46, Karen is no less up­beat.

“Only for faith, I don’t think I’d be where I am to­day,” she says.

“We’re still deal­ing with her can­cer,” says her hus­band Vaden, 49, “but we’ve come a long way.”

A new spot

Af­ter Karen’s fi­nal chemo­ther­apy treat­ment in Jan­uary of this year, she had a CT scan.

“The spots on my bones were the same or smaller, the tu­mour it­self was shrink­ing, the lymph nodes were gone back to nor­mal, and the spots on my lungs were gone,” she ex­plains.

In May, though, Karen’s doc­tor de­tected a new spot on one of her lungs. An­other CT scan, three months later, con­firmed this most re­cent de­vel­op­ment.

Un­fazed, Karen didn’t think to ask which lung was af­fected.

“No big deal, I thought. It didn’t make me feel any dif­fer­ent than what I am now, be­cause I’ve come through a lot,” she says.

Vaden echoes Karen’s sen­ti­ments, adding it was “an­other blip on the radar.”

Mean­while, Karen’s doc­tor isn’t overly con­cerned about the lat­est spot.

“It wasn’t big enough to be worry- ing about, so why worry over it?” Vaden asks philo­soph­i­cally.

Back to work

Be­fore her can­cer di­ag­no­sis, Karen worked at the Pen­te­costal Se­nior Cit­i­zens Home in Clarke’s Beach. By June of this year, she was pin­ing to get back to work. How­ever, her doc­tor felt she needed additional time for her body to re­bound.

In Oc­to­ber, Karen as­sured her doc­tor she felt well enough to re­turn to work on ease back.

Karen got the green light and, on Oct. 11, re­sumed work­ing in the laun­dry depart­ment.

“Was I ex­cited?” she asks rhetor­i­cally. “Yeah, I had the uni­form hung on to my closet door on Oct. 5.”

She says that be­cause she tires eas­ily, “I lis­ten to my body more so than my head, be­cause your head wants you to do things, but your body doesn’t co-oper­ate with you all the time.”

A hairy sit­u­a­tion

Start­ing in June of last year, Karen’s pate was de­void of hair.

She jokes that in Jan­uary, she “started get­ting a lit­tle bit of moss up there.” In July, she had her first hair­cut since the on­slaught of can­cer. She’s since en­joyed sev­eral hair­cuts.

Karen at­tributes her on­go­ing re­cov­ery to per­sonal will and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Neg­a­tiv­ity af­fects one’s health, she states, whereas a “pos­i­tive mind and de­ter­mi­na­tion gives you more of a pur­pose, a push to fight this (can­cer).”

Rather than pulling Karen and Vaden apart; life’s storms have ce­mented their re­la­tion­ship.

“If you don’t stick to­gether, that’s only go­ing to make it worse,” Vaden says.

Both of them em­pha­size the im­por­tance of sup­port from fam­ily and friends.

“If you got good peo­ple around you that are hold­ing you up … that’s 95 per cent of the bat­tle,” Vaden says. “We haven’t seen peo­ple pull away. It’s over­whelm­ing.”

Karen says her mother, Eileen, is a “tower of strength.” Karen’s daugh­ter, Stephanie, along with her hus­band Stephen, and their chil­dren Con­nor and Jesse, con­tinue to be there for Karen in so many ways. Vaden’s fam­ily is no less sup­port­ive.

The Shorts’ faith con­tin­ues to sus­tain them.

Though Karen is a firm believer in the role of medicine, she’s an equally firm believer in the role of faith.

“I’m not giv­ing medicine all the credit,” she says. “God’s the one who gave (doc­tors) the knowl­edge to know what to do.”

Though she re­al­izes can­cer is of­ten a death sen­tence, Karen re­fuses to ac­cept it as a fait ac­com­pli, a thing al­ready done.

“When the doc­tor told me the (can­cer was) in­cur­able but treat­able, I took ‘in­cur­able’ to mean she couldn’t go in with a knife and take it all out.”

Karen wants to stay work­ing and see her grand­chil­dren “grow up, fin­ish school, and do their thing.

“So be­tween medicine and prayer, I’m good to go,” she says.

This photo of Karen Short was taken in the fall of 2010, when she didn’t have any hair on her head.

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