Prior to Karen Allen’s breast cancer diagnosis, her only experience with the disease involved people she loved dying. Being diagnosed with Stage 2B Breast Cancer, her first thoughts were that she had ‘received a death sentence’.
And you can’t blame her. All she ever knew about cancer, especially growing up, is people who got the disease died.
“I was so low that I’m not sure I truly processed what that meant. It was just a feeling,” says Karen.
She immediately shared the devastating news with her husband and together they told their sons.
Upon hearing the news the Allen’s sons gave their Mum a hug and said “this isn’t just your fight. It’s our fight too and we’re there for you.”
People saw calm on the outside but on the inside, there was terror and panic. There were a few days of self-pity and dark thoughts. She would come to grips with the news but in the back of her mind, the Chartered Professional Accountant and recently retired provincial government Assistant Deputy Minister knew the clock was ticking. Difficult decisions needed to be made in light of what lay ahead with her treatment.
Karen is a self-described planner and it was the advice of a work colleague, who also had breast cancer that said, “you must educate yourself so you can make the required decisions to help in your care.”
“As I learned more, I started to realize, ‘maybe there’s hope, maybe I can live’,” explains Karen.
She would undergo a lumpectomy, 21 rounds of chemotherapy, a drug trial, and 21 radiation treatments.
It’s been 12 years since Karen was first diagnosed and today she’s in remission.
Cancer has taken a hefty toll on her family. Over the course of the four years after her diagnosis, she lost her sister, sister-in-law and father-in-law to the disease.
“That’s a lot of people and I’m the only one who’s still alive,” she says.
Ensuring the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency (Agency) has the most up-to-date equipment for planning and treatment is critical to Karen’s and the life of every cancer patient. That’s why she’s supporting the $3 M. replacement of two Computed Tomography (CT) Simulators at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency’s (Agency) clinics in Regina and Saskatoon.
CT Simulation is a critical step for anyone needing radiation for their cancer treatment. The life-saving treatment cannot be administered safely without first getting a simulation. The images CT Simulators generate are used by the treatment team to plan a patient’s radiation therapy.
The pair of machines are almost 10 years old and at the end of their lifecycle.
Karen’s treatment was in 2007 and since then technology has changed dramatically.
“I used a flip phone, which was state of the art technology when I was undergoing treatment. I don’t anymore, I use newer smartphone technology. Everyday technology changes have been significant, and medical technology moves just as rapidly. Using flip phone aged medical technology doesn’t make sense in a smartphone era. It’s time to update these CT Simulators. I believe up-to-date technology would improve patient care and ultimately help save lives.”
Karen doesn’t know what the future holds but having experienced firsthand how important CT Simulation is, she says we all need to work together to support replacing these ageing machines. “Together we are stronger”
It’s for her well-being and every cancer patient – now and in the future.