Survivor finds cancer a ‘blessing’ on her journey

October 27, 2015

SUGAR LAND – Karen Glynn had seen what cancer could do to a loved one before. 

After losing her mother to lymphoma, a cancer which took her mother's life in just six months, Glynn said she knew what the process looked like. 

So when Glynn was diagnosed with Triple-Negative Stage 1 breast cancer at the start of 2009, cancer had already been a large part of her life. And just months prior to her diagnosis, she had been to funerals with each of her three children separately, where the parent had died of cancer. 

While her medical team said that her mother's lymphoma and her breast cancer weren't related, so many of the things they said were the same things she had heard during her mother's diagnosis, words that were familiar, but not comforting in the least. 

"What is this journey going to look like for me?" Glynn wondered. That journey, she said, leads her to believe that her cancer was a blessing in disguise.

Friends, family united
"Telling your kids is the hardest part," said Glynn, who worked for the city of Sugar Land before joining the city of Bunker Hill Village administration. She and her youngest son had just attended a funeral of a friend that died of breast cancer. "He was just so little. He was eleven. That was hard telling them. But then we just rallied as a family." 

Not counting some skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, no matter race or ethnicity, according to the CDC.

And though the family of five, a husband and three children, as a whole was a source of inspiration, she said the littlest one was a constant support. Her treatment began that just as school ended, so those children soon were home and free from school events and activities. 

"Taking those four months off during the summer was probably the best summer of my life," she said.

Glynn's older son had just received his driver's permit so he was able to drive her around town to her doctor's appointments. 

"Looking back, cancer was a blessing for me. It really made me stop, regroup and think about how I wasn't taking care of myself," she said. Her diagnosis made her take a deeper look at her lifestyle like her diet, her exercise habits, which lead her to finding help in holistic treatments for additional care. 

And on an even deeper level, Glynn reached for her faith. 

Glynn, the city administrator for Bunker Hill Village in west Houston, holds a photo of her family taken a few months after her surgery at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life Survivor Walk in 2010. " hspace="5" vspace="5" align="right" />Faith in surrender
Even after losing her mother to lymphoma, Glynn admits that she was never mad at God. 

"I never asked God, ‘Why are you doing this to me?' I didn't really see that. It just made me regroup and think, ‘What is it God needs me to do?'" said Glynn. "I'm really his instrument here. What do you want me to do with cancer journey?"

That question still plays on her heart and mind even to this day as she steps forward in faith to help others. She's teamed up with a friend to teach others about prevention and healthy living. She also walks with other women on their journey with breast cancer. 

Connecting with others with breast cancer helps make the journey easier, she said. "When I got my diagnosis, I was put in touch with other patients. It's a lot easier to ask them, ‘What's going to happen?' ‘What happens after my surgery?' ‘When is my hair going to fall out?' The doctors can tell you things, but they didn't go through it."

Her treatment, like for the many others who suffered from cancer, was brutal. Four rounds of chemotherapy, each a four-week process of testing, medicine and more, would wreak havoc on her body like the flu.

Glynn was given three points of advice when she got her cancer, which she shares with others.

One was to pray a lot and to trust the Lord's journey for me, she said. She added a prayer of surrender, giving up her control of her life in trust. 

Second was to keep a sense of humor. "You really need it", she said. "The anticipation of is a lot worse than having to wear the wing. I used to tell the kids, ‘You're making my hair fall out!'" 

Third, let your family and friends walk with you. "I've always been independent and it's hard for me to ask for help, but I had to because I couldn't do it." she said. "And all of my St. Laurence family was really special." 

Wigs, Easter eggs and prayers
Three of her memorable moments include both laughter and tears. Part of her journey, like many others with cancer, included losing her hair. 

Her wig took on its own personality, and gave Glynn a freedom to travel with even just a new hair color. She remembers a daring friend, also cancer survivor, who took her out to lunch, and each time the pair passed a window or mirror, both would laugh because neither would recognize who they saw in the reflection. 

Another time, her family went out to celebrate her dad's birthday after her own surgery, she returned to her house Easter Sunday completely surrounded by pink Easter eggs, each filled with words of encouragement from her friends. Even the next day, Easter Monday, she opened her front door to find even more. She later returned the favor on the fifth anniversary of her diagnosis by sending five of the eggs back to those who set up her Easter surprise. 

And at her home parish of St. Laurence Catholic Church, parishioners surrounded her at a "beautiful" Rosary prayer service interceding for her before her surgery, including the a special imposition, or laying, of hands on Glynn. 

She encourages all women to visit their doctor and get a mammogram and well-woman check to make sure they're OK, especially if cancer is in the family.

"Ask for help, and don't be a hero," Glynn said. "Don't walk by yourself, because you're never alone."

Archdiocesan Resources
The Archdiocesan Family Life Ministry works with 9 Catholic parish-based cancer support groups around Houston.

Eight of these parishes have CanCare, an interfaith-based community of support. These parishes are Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Church - Katy, St. Bernadette Catholic Church, St. Cecilia Catholic Community, St. John Vianney Catholic Church, St. Martha Catholic Church - Kingwood, St. Theresa Catholic Church - Memorial Park, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Sts. Simon and June Church - The Woodlands, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church offers Cancer Connections for patients, caregivers and anyone touched by cancer. Cherry Evans, 713-320-7813.

To learn more about these groups and other ministries like bereavement communities, visit