“Being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer has made me start living my best life. I can’t control the cancer, but I can control how I respond,” says Karen Barnett from Auckland, who was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in early 2021.
“2021 was the start of a journey I was NOT expecting in life…especially not at the age of 38. I have breast cancer with secondary breast cancer in the liver.
“At age 38 – I didn’t even think of breast cancer. I should have though because it runs in the family. My mum is a survivor of breast cancer.
“On a Tuesday in early January 2021, I found out I had breast cancer – but that it was curable. By Friday of that same week, I found out I had breast cancer that was terminal – treatable but not curable. And I learned a new word: “metastasis” (which I still can’t pronounce).
“Before I started chemo, I cut my hair really short and dyed it pink. So I could honestly say to people, hands over heart, I did not lose my hair to chemo.
“These days I don’t think too far ahead – because I don’t know how far ahead I have. But what I do know is that I have the here and now. This experience has made me think about my “bucket-list” because I want to do more things with intention – to create magical memories. The things I’ve already ticket off the bucket list include, skydiving, white water rafting and learning to play the guitar and ukulele.
“As I was climbing up, I told myself I’ve already faced one of life’s harshest blows – this is nothing. In the end though, I had to jump backwards. I just couldn’t let go of the rope jumping forwards! It was an amazing experience.
“I think having the support of an organisation like Sweet Louise that is dedicated to advanced breast cancer is a strong pillar in the foundation towards living your best life.
“At the Sweet Louise meetings, it’s a safe place to check in with others, but also with yourself. Sometimes life gets busy, sometimes crazy, and to have those couple of hours listening and talking with others allows me to be still for a moment and see how I’m actually doing. Being in a room with women who are at different ages and stages in their own journey, it shines a light of understanding.
“I know that if I ever feel ‘lost’ or ‘overwhelmed’ I can reach out to my Support Coordinator. She understands and meets me where I am at. I feel I am seen for who I am – the person and not the cancer. I enjoy the newsletters too – it’s great to read about other members and hear about their journey.
“Knowing what Louise Perkins stood for and the reasons behind the founding of Sweet Louise gives me hope and inspiration. It empowers me to live my best life.”
“A year ago, my life changed. I could either feel sorry for myself, or I could take my life by the horns and do something with it. I could live a life of fear or live a life of faith and purpose. I didn’t have the choice to get cancer or for it to be terminal, but I do have a choice as to how I responded to it and make the most of the time I have.
“Everything changed so quickly for me so my motto now is – don’t “wait”. Don’t wait for the right moment, because truth be told, that moment is NOW!!!
“Don’t wait to tell your loved ones that you love them, to let them know how much you value them and what they mean to you. Tomorrow is not a given, it is not promised to us…just don’t wait.”