During a 2009 winter vacation in upstate Lake George, Karen Bohlert, then 43, slipped and fell on the ice, bruising her right shoulder and ribs. A few days later, she noticed a lump in her left breast. Her doctor thought it might be a swelling caused by the fall, but he recommended she see a breast surgeon to be sure. Following an ultrasound and biopsy, the mother of two learned the lump was an advanced stage 3 breast cancer.
Cancer treatments not only wreaked havoc on Karen’s body, but also her mind. While she tolerated 16 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, she says, losing both breasts to a mastectomy was a traumatic, life-altering experience. And once her cancer treatments ended, she battled fear and was plagued by worry that her disease would someday return. “When you’re 43, you think you’re going to live to 100,” said Karen, now 51, and a bookkeeper, “and then all of a sudden, you get this diagnosis and you think, ‘I may not.’”
It was her strong faith in God, she says, that helped pull her through. “The church (Catholic) says to offer your pain and feelings of hopelessness to God, and that’s what I did,” she said, through tears. “When you give it over, you feel a release and it helps you cope.”
The Bellmore resident also credits her husband for helping her every step of the way. “It’s hard for the spouse to watch someone go through this,” said Karen, whose husband not only supported her emotionally but also took care of the household and their two children, then 7 and 5. “They are the unsung heroes.”