by Vickie Jenkins
Meet Kari Moroz. She is a cancer survivor of 9 years. Since her cancer, she has turned her many stumbling blocks into stepping stones. She has shared her experiences through speaking engagements, church groups and individuals that are dealing with the same issues. She is also the author of her newly released book, “Stage III Mommy.”
“I was born in San Diego, California and am the oldest of three siblings. When I was three, my parents moved back to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and that is where I was raised by loving parents. I had a typical childhood in the 80’s, wearing head-to-toe neon while roller skating to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.”
“What age were you when you were diagnosed with breast cancer?” I ask Kari. “It was October 9, 2006 and I was 29 when I was diagnosed with aggressive, stage III breast cancer. It was news I had already suspected, as I’d found the lump in my right breast months earlier while I was pregnant. My first reaction was being angry at my gynecologist for ignoring my family history and passing it off as a clogged milk duct. I was also angry at myself for not fighting harder to get my mammogram sooner and terrified that we’d found it too late. My biggest fear, however, was that I would die, leaving my toddler and infant baby motherless and my husband with the burden of being a single dad.”
Kari was overwhelmed with the support of her family, church family, friends and even people who she didn’t even know. “Everyone who lived close signed up to bring meals, take the kids for the day, and even clean my house. Long distance friends and family sent flowers and notes that I read daily for encouragement. I even had friends rallying their churches to pray for me in France, Jerusalem, Germany, and many other countries! Those who showed up to help, and pray for me, contributed to saving my life.” Kari comments. “I had prayers from all over the world, spreading the news. When Gracie, our oldest, was a baby, my younger brother was serving in Iraq. Keeping long-distance family and friends updated was very important to me, so I started a blog. For three years the blog was exclusively the writings of an overtired mom. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it became much more than that. The blog not only became therapy for me but provided encouragement to other mothers and cancer patients as well.”
Asking how the cancer initially was detected, Kari replies, “I found the lump while I was pregnant but the doctor suggested it was a clogged milk duct. My heart told me otherwise, so I fought my insurance for months to get a mammogram covered. They never did approve it, so we paid cash for the films that clearly determined something was very, very wrong.”
Kari has a family history of cancer. “I am proud to say my grandmother fought breast cancer heroically for years after recurrence. She passed in 1998 after a long battle and although she was very private about her experience, I admired her quiet strength. She passed the same strength to my mother, who fought her battle and won just four years before I was diagnosed. I gathered courage and hope from their experiences. I believed in myself because I believed in them.”
“I went through it all; chemo, radiation, mastectomy, lymph node removal, reconstruction, and Tamoxifen. I am thankful that I experienced all of it, because now I can relate to all of it and truly sympathize with my readers,” Kari says.
Asking Kari what her main concern was when she was diagnosed with cancer, she says, “I was concerned that ultimately, I would die and leave young children behind. But those fears subsided when I realized that the negative thoughts could be converted into positive experiences if I’d only change my perspective. It took more courage to turn those negative thoughts around than to dwell on my problems, but it was worth it.”
“What did you miss most when you had cancer?” “I think as a mother, I’ll always have a certain sadness about missing some of my youngest daughter, Trinity’s firsts while I took chemotherapy or radiation. I still remember the times my girls cried when I couldn’t pick them up after my mastectomy. Of course I cried along with them!” Kari replies. “However, the year I “lost” to treatment in no way compares to how many years I’ve gained. The moments of Trinity’s firsts are long gone, but our bond is evident. I’m thankful that both girls recovered from that time as well as they have. It was temporary heartache, and relatively a short amount of time,” Kari adds.
If you were going to convey a message to others, what message would it be?” I ask Kari. “I would tell the nurses that work with cancer patients, thank you for the way you care for the weak and ill. Nursing is a talent, and when you are excellent at it, we do notice and are grateful, even when we are too sick to tell you. So many of my nurses made my days in the hospitals and at chemo more bearable just because of their humor, kind words, or their gentle touch. I will never forget that.”
”I would like to tell cancer patients everywhere (especially young moms) I am living proof that you can not only survive, but thrive! I had no idea how courageous I could be, until that was tested! Really begin to tap into your inner strength, and discover your resolve. Say, “I am fighting cancer” instead of “I have cancer.” Yes, it makes a difference! Never own it. Change the way you talk to yourself and start talking yourself into living.
I know that Kari is a brave woman, full of encouraging words to share with others. Like every cancer survivor, I am proud of their courageous and winning battles. A special thank you to Kari Moroz, my brave, strong and courageous survivor, my daughter. Comments or book requests for “Stage III Mommy” contact firstname.lastname@example.org