Stories From A Life

Been there. Done that. Writing about it.

Sally Swift

Sally Swift
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
June 14
VP, Repartee
Swift Retorts
sally: a journey, a venture, an expression of feeling, an outburst, a quip, a wisecrack ... me


MAY 21, 2010 11:39AM

Karen's Birthday, Cake with a Side of Chemo & Platelets

Rate: 30 Flag

cancer bitch
 Our current t-shirts, copping some attitude.

My niece Karen has cancer. So does her son Alex (a different kind). Last year, on her birthday, she received devastating news -- Alex had grown more eye tumors and was in danger of losing his sight. Some birthday present for a loving mother locked in a battle of her own.

This year --hey, she made it to another birthday!-- the news about Alex is great. Eye tumors gone, retina intact, go back to life as a normal kid.

The news about Karen is ... Not. Good. She's in the hospital on heavy duty antibiotics and ... damn. Blood transfusions. No matter how hard she fights, no matter all the cutting edge treatments, organic foods and positive attitudes, the cancer keeps trying to win.

No! We won't let it. Not now. She's not going to struggle up that hill one step alone, carrying the weight of the world on her once strong shoulders, growing weaker by the day. We're determined to lighten her burden as best we can.

So she woke up in the hospital yesterday to find a card from the kitchen staff on her breakfast tray wishing her a happy and healthy birthday. The nurses hung balloons a Happy Birthday banner in her room. They even put a big Happy Birthday sticker over the IV bags sending life-saving blood transfusions through her body.

Then in the afternoon a friend who has a sweet, gentle "therapy dog" brought him to stay with Karen and to give her the comfort of a cold nose and a warm heart.

This birthday I told her, we're changing our mantra. No more One Day At A Time. Now it's going to be Every Day Is Your Birthday. Each new day is a new beginning.

No, I added, she won't be getting presents every day. Life is the best gift of all. And we'll take as much of it as we can get.

We've started a charitable trust (tax deductible) for the family. I'll be creating a Facebook page with more info. Two family members with cancer. Talk about medical bills.

Karen has a golden voice, she used to sing with a popular band. Next week on Tuesday, May 25, the Atlantic City casino (Taj Mahal) where Karen's husband Bob works, is throwing a fundraiser for the family.

Here's the new T-shirt I designed for the fundraiser, and for her.



band t


These days every cancer has a ribbon. Melanoma's ribbon is black. Because. Ew. The word melanoma means black tumor. We're gonna stick with black humor instead.

If you have someone in your life battling disease, my heart goes out to you. If you don't, I hope you never have to join our special club. Be vigilant. Get all regular check-ups, all over your body. Make sure your family does the same.

You think it only happens to other people, not you. But it can. Trust me, I know.



Many of my friends know Karen and Alex through the posts I've writen about them. Your kindness has meant the world to us. Here are their stories.

Chronological Order:

Alex's Lemonade - Elixir of Life  (one of my very first posts on OS, more than two years ago ... some anniversary, eh)

I See Courage

Here's To Alex, To Life, L' Chaim!

"This Is Not The End Of Your Life"

No More! No Más! Enough! Basta! Finis! Stop! **UPDATED

Karen, Brave Warrior  

Karen Does Chemo ***UPDATED UPDATE 



Karen and Bob Then

k hair 


Karen and Bob Now

karen now


Oh yeah, it's all too real. Still, those smiles...



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Sorry I haven't been around, keeping up, reading or commenting. This is why. I'll be back soon, I hope.
no need for an explanation, sally. cheering for the words on the t-shirt. best to you and the family.
You and Karen (and her son) are always in my thoughts. xxx
Lighting a candle for you all . . . like femme, I'm totally cheering the words on the t-shirt . . .
I can't even begin to imagine how difficult this is Sally. This post made me cry. You are an amazing tower of strength for your family. I wish I had a sister, and she was just like you. Sending my good thoughts to karen and Alex.
Keep up the good, hard work!
Swearing. Love the cake.
Happy Birthday, Karen. Your smile is simply beautiful. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the whole team. You guys are doing the best you can possibly do, and are role models as to how to be a loving, supportive family.
Karen and Bob are beautiful in both pictures. And you are a rockstar. Happy every birthday, karen.
Happy Birthday Karen!
Sally you are a beacon of love and light, carry on dear one.
Sending you and your family positive thoughts and lots of love.
I came, I read, I pray.
Sally, thank you for keeping us abreast of Karen's situation. She has an enthusiastic following cheering for her recovery. Cancer is a bitch...let's slap that bitch down!
Still prayers for Karen, and Alex, and you.
I lost a 36 year old friend to skin cancer. He died so quickly he did not live to see his wife deliver their twin daughters. Just a mole on his back... Most skin cancers are easily treated but melanoma is different.

You are a wonderful sister Sally. Your love and caring for Karen and Alex shines through in your writings like a lighthouse beacon. I hope your family gets a well deserved break from this cancer shit!
I am glad you keep pushing forward and celebrating. You are all so very strong!
Hope things improve for everyone. I do know a young person, a friend of my daughter, who is battling a serious cancer. She, like your niece, is lucky to have a lot of love and support to make the load lighter. Even without the hair, Karen looks pretty good.
Those photos are very touching. "You picked the wrong bitch" (love that)
Sending healing thoughts, good thoughts, pink roses. R.
Wow, Sally. So much for your family -- but I so admire your strength and resilience and humor and just they way you're there for each other. It sounds like Karen and I share a birthday. I'll say some prayers for her that she'll be here for the next one and I'll be thinking of her.
My prayers are with you, Karen, Bob and all your family.

My eldest son had a melanoma cut out when you was around 19 years old ... that was 6 years ago. So far, all is well.
I'm so sorry that Karen's situation is still so tenuous. You're a good aunt to tirelessly support her as you are. Best wishes to all of you to crush that evil cancer for good.
You are all so kind, thank you for such gifts of caring and support, and it's not even my birthday yet! Brought Karen home from the hospital last night, not a great day so far today but we're going for rest, sleep, stress reduction, peace and quiet. (Who couldn't use that?)

When she wakes up I'll read her your wonderful comments... they never fail to cheer and uplift her (and the rest of us too).

Thank you all so much ... Team Karen OS Chapter Rocks!
trilogy said it best.
Great work on the Tshirt.
My father died of Alzheimer's, with a side of colon cancer. So...I know...I know...

Thanks for this!
Thinking of you, Sally, with prayers and fondness. Will be keeping Karen and Alex and your family in my thoughts, too. Cancer sucks.