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A Thanksgiving Update from Karen Shirer

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

Trish Olson asked that I give you an update on what is happening with me. Many of you have been asking how I have been doing with the cancer treatments.

First, some details on the cancer treatment. The cancer that I have is large B-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma and my specific one is a “double-hit” lymphoma. It is a very aggressive form of cancer and was spreading rapidly through my lymph node system before I began treatment. To date, I have had four rounds of chemotherapy. Each round is five days long and completed in the hospital. The chemo goes by the acronym R-EPOCH, which describes the type being used. You can find out more at this website:

The chemo rounds have been rigorous, but I have been able to control the nausea with medication. Fatigue has been a problem because of the intensity of the chemo, but I am managing that much better with rest.

Many of you also know that I sustained a pathological fracture of my left femur in late September that put me in the hospital for seven days. A titanium rod was put in the femur, and the healing in the leg has been amazing. I am now able to put full weight on the leg when I walk, and I will be doing physical therapy to strengthen the leg and get me back to regular physical activity. If I can do it, you can also do physical activity.

This journey with cancer has been an interesting one with many gracious and helpful caregivers who have eased my pain and discomfort. Being off work has given me an opportunity to reconnect with family members that a busy career and raising two active daughters did not allow me. My daughter, Allie, complained that it is too bad that I have cancer and cannot spend as much time with baby Lulu. I reminded her that I probably have had more time than if I had been working full time.

A cancer diagnosis is a scary thing, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how well the treatments have gone. I shared with Trish that these past few months have been "the best of times and the worst of times."

Thank you for all the cards and gifts that you have sent. I have been belated in sending thank-you cards but am slowly getting to them as I feel better. Lulu continues to grow and turns four months old on December 2.

I hope to be back to work in mid to late January if all goes well. My last chemo treatment cycle falls on New Year’s Eve and Day. I did have a CT scan on November 17 and the cancer is being chased from my body — my oncologist is very optimistic!

While walking around the hospital floor during my first chemo round, I found a basket of cards for the taking that had these important words that sustain me when things get difficult.

What Cancer Cannot Do 
Cancer is so Limited...
It cannot cripple Love
It cannot shatter Hope
It cannot corrode Faith
It cannot destroy Peace
It cannot kill Friendship
It cannot suppress Memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal Eternal Life
It cannot conquer the Spirit

Have a blessed and love-filled Thanksgiving.

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