Karen Virnoche-Brown

Some moments you never forget. On three occasions—October 1992, August 1993 and January 2005—I was told that I had cancer (Hodgkin's, Non-Hodgkin's and Anal Cancer). The first time my response to Dr. Bradley was, "OK, what do I do?" The second time, I knew before anyone told me, and the third time Dr. Prabhakar said, "You have cancer again."

I asked Dr. Schulz, who would be my oncologist for the third time, "What in the world is going on with me?" He replied, "It is just plain bad luck!" Each time, from the moment I was told, I felt there was not a minute to spare. It was time to save my life! I wanted to know all my options, fast, and get going. And with the help of my husband, James, my family, all of my old and soon-to-be new friends, the medical staff and the dear Lord, we were out to win the race.

People who know me would describe me as an organized, energetic and positive. I am also pretty determined. Those qualities remained with me and I believe helped me through the process each time. I believed that there was no time like the present to do whatever needed to be done. James and I had a motto that we shared on a daily basis: "We will do whatever it takes."

People asked me how I handled the disease so well. I had only one response: "If it is my time to join the Lord then I am ready, but if it is not my time, I am ready to win this race by doing whatever it takes." I trained my mind to focus on healing and hope. I believed it would take what I referred to as the three P’s: my Physician - his medical team and treatments; People - the support from family and friends; and Prayer.

Of course, I experienced all the side effects from both radiation and chemo. But with Drs. Schulz, Kline, and Pedapati and their teams close by my side—the first "P"—I was able to endure and fight. People gave me encouragement and energy. And last but not least, prayer, which became my third source of strength. Prayer is a mighty weapon that connected me personally to the overwhelming power of God. I had more time to pray than ever before in my life, so I took advantage of it. I could pray for everyone as well as myself. I prayed more rosaries during those days than I ever imagined I would pray in a lifetime. My prayers became prayers of thanks. I realized I had a lot to be thankful for, simple things like hot water and a bathtub to ease my pain, a house with a roof over me, a car and a husband to take me to my treatments.

I believe there is purpose in everything. There was a reason that the dear Lord gave me cancer in my life plan. Sometimes I refer to my cancer as a gift. I feel it was a blessing and I am a survivor. I have lived to learn from it. We all learn from our trials in life. We hopefully become stronger and better people.

Now, James and I focus on giving back through volunteering with the American Cancer Society. Our largest fundraiser is our annual yard sale. Once again, we do not do this alone. The support comes from people in the community and across the country who make it a successful event.