The last thing one might expect from someone living with stage IV cancer is for her to step out of her own inner fears and doubts and turn her attention to helping others like her. Yet with her deep faith at her core, Karen Danhof is doing just that.
The Benton resident of 19 years says she feels fortunate there is a CARTI Benton where she can receive her chemotherapy every three weeks, and now she’s able to give back. She has her scans at the CARTI Little Rock, and after experiencing their chemotherapy infusion heated reclining seats, Karen says she felt compelled to bring that comfort to CARTI Benton.
Karen approached the CARTI Foundation about a fundraising campaign to bring heated seats to the Benton center. They provided her with the necessary brochures and folders, and Karen started calling on businesses in late December. “As of April, we have raised $45,000 of our $75,000 goal, which also includes funds for a hematology analyzer at CARTI Benton.”
Karen says she feels confident that “God would not have put this on my heart to do if He wasn’t going to provide the needed resources to do it. I can’t wait until the day the heated seats are installed.” Simply put, she says, “It just makes chemo more tolerable and comfortable being in a heated seat, hence the name ‘Heat the Seats’ fundraising campaign.”
Karen considers herself a “late bloomer” in the career world. She earned her bachelor’s degree at 45, followed by her master’s degree when she was 49. After years in the food industry, she was offered an opportunity with Dole Packaged Foods as central regional foodservice manager. That career came to a halt in March 2015, when she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer that had metastasized to her liver.
“It was difficult to have to leave Dole because of my stage IV cancer diagnosis and not by choice,” Karen says. “I still wrestle with the fact that I am no longer working at a job I truly loved, filled with such loving people. However, God has other things in store for me, like working on the fundraising project ‘Heat the Seats’ for CARTI Benton. It allows me to give back and be productive as well.”
Karen spent much of the rest of 2015 and 2016 at MD Anderson in Houston and other hospitals, for intensive surgeries to tackle her cancer. In May of 2016, Karen was pronounced in remission, and that fall she returned to work at Dole Foods. A scan in March 2017, however, showed that the colon cancer had metastasized to her lungs and was inoperable. “Presently, I am on chemo every three weeks and tolerating it very well with no plans to return to work.” The takeaway, she says: “Get a colonoscopy!”
At the start of this journey, when Karen sought a second opinion and had her port implanted by Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, they then referred her to Dr. Mariann Harrington, oncologist at CARTI, to administer Karen’s chemotherapy. “My husband and I were elated to find out there was a facility in Benton, so we wouldn’t have to travel back and forth to Little Rock. After four years, I am still receiving chemo from CARTI Benton.”
Dr. Harrington says providing heated infusion recliners for CARTI patients helps them on so many levels. “Physically, the heat comforts the body, making it more comfortable to sit for hours at a time while receiving treatment. Many infusion medicines make the body feel cold, so the heat counteracts that. Emotionally, which can be even more important, the patient is able to relax, creating a better environment for healing. We want to make sure every patient in every community receives the best CARTI has to offer on all levels.”
Karen says her favorite thing about CARTI Benton is what she refers to as “CARTI’s Angels.” “They always take the time to listen, and Dr. Harrington takes as much time as is needed for each patient. Additionally, you can’t help but make friends with the other patients, so that a caring community is cultivated.”
How does one get through the cancer journey and reconcile the fact that things such as retirement dreams take a detour? “You call on your faith, and it continues to grow with each passing day,” Karen says. “You look at everything differently with a heart filled with joy just to be able to wake up and get out of bed. Then to be able to do things that you previously couldn’t do, or didn’t think you would ever be able to do (like travel) is truly beyond understanding.”
When you are faced with a terminal illness, each day is a blessing, Karen says. “I am not just surviving but thriving.” Karen reads healing scriptures daily to help her remain steadfast in her faith, but when all else fails, she reminds herself to “suck it up, buttercup.”
Donations to CARTI Benton’s Heat the Seat campaign may be made at www.carti.com, by clicking on “Donate Now” and indicating Benton as the desired recipient of the donation.