Hype about a haircut
Shearstown woman speaks about her battle with cancer
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.