Karen Studyvin, breast cancer survivor and "Portrait of Hope" spokeswoman
Four years ago, the bottom dropped out of Karen Studyvin's orderly existence. Months after celebrating her fiftieth birthday, Karen was stunned to learn from her doctor, Eileen Harrahill, M.D., that she had triple negative breast cancer with four positive lymph nodes. Her breast surgeon, Sarah Beth Snell, M.D., had both bad and good news: the cancer is very aggressive, but is highly receptive to chemotherapy.
A two-and-a-half-year journey of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments followed for Karen, a 24-year veteran nurse at St. Anthony’s who now serves as Education Specialist. During the chemotherapy, Karen’s medicine kept her up at night; at one point, Karen planned her own funeral on her computer.
"You vacillate back and forth; you’re never 100 percent sure you’re going to survive," said Karen, who now is cancer-free. "I'm grateful to have had so many role models who maintained a positive outlook and helped me through my journey. There’s been a lot of strength there. I hope to do that for other people, because I know how important that was for me."
Karen received some of her strength from her family: her husband, Terry, and their two sons, Jesse, 17, and Jonathan, 14. She says her journey battling breast cancer taught her this lesson: in the big picture, some of the things we get so flustered about really don’t matter.
On an informal basis, Karen has been supporting others: her co-workers at St. Anthony’s and those in her community and at her church. Now it’s official: Karen Studyvin has been named one of three 2014 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of St. Louis Portraits of Hope Spokespersons in St. Louis by the American Cancer Society.
"We are thrilled to have her as part of our 2014 Portraits of Hope class," said Stephanie Hadfield, Community Events Specialist for the American Cancer Society’s High Plains Division. "Karen's message is simple: she wants to make sure that the people know that the American Cancer Society is here to help."
Karen will participate in events such as the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, share her support and experience in media spots and other activities, and speak in the community on behalf of the American Cancer Society. She’ll also serve as a mentor to others with cancer.
"My mission is threefold," Karen said. "I want to help educate the community about all the benefits of the American Cancer Society before someone is in need of them. I want to increase donations to the American Cancer Society so they can bring an end to breast cancer for my generation and generations to come. And, I want to let anyone know that there are supporters out there: it’s not a fight they have to fight on their own."
Each year, a team from St. Anthony's and its Cancer Care Center participates in in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Last year, St. Anthony’s was honored by the Society as a top fundraising team, with more than $4,000 raised by almost 40 participants.
Four-year veteran team captain Lisa Salvati, R.N., M.S.N., Breast Care Navigator at St. Anthony’s, hopes to build the biggest team ever for this year’s event, scheduled for the morning of Saturday, October 25, in Forest Park. To join the St. Anthony’s team, sign up here.
"St. Anthony’s recognizes and appreciates all the ways in which the American Cancer Society supports our patients, our employees and the community," Salvati said. "The ACS provides free services that not only improve the quality of life for patients undergoing cancer treatments, but also provides the type of assistance that can lead to better outcomes while easing some of the burdens associated with the treatment process. The money we raise at the Making Strides walk is committed to patients in need right here in St. Louis. We encourage everyone to join our team and help us support this wonderful organization that does so much for patients that truly benefit from our encouragement and support."
Again this year, St. Anthony’s Charitable Foundation will team up with the Making Strides team to sell T-shirts to raise money for both the Making Strides walk and the SAMC Charitable Foundation Cancer Care Fund.