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A journey of resilience towards a century of life

A resident of Cold Lake, originally from Nova Scotia, four-time cancer survivor Karen Freeman is a beacon of resilience amidst life's challenges.

COLD LAKE - A resident of Cold Lake, four-time cancer survivor Karen Freeman is a beacon of resilience amidst life's challenges. Originally hailing from the shores of Nova Scotia, Freeman’s journey has been punctuated by battles against cancer, each chapter a testament to her unwavering spirit and steadfast determination. 

Freeman’s journey with cancer began decades ago, in 1988, when she faced her first adversary: thyroid cancer. Subsequent battles followed in 1993, with ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and later blood cancer. Despite the daunting nature of her diagnoses, Freeman approached each trial with unwavering optimism. "I'm a firm believer in being positive," she asserts. "Cancer, yes, it's very negative, but there are the positives that come out of it." 

Freeman underscores the initial emotional response to receiving such news, emphasizing the need for support and verification. She reflects, "Well, you know, at first when you first get diagnosed you do shut down and you have to process this. That's why you always take somebody with you, or you take a little mini recorder with you, take your cell phone—everybody's got a cell phone." 

For Freeman, navigating the labyrinth of cancer treatment necessitated a change in her lifestyle. "You get to a blip in the road where you got cancer, so instead of going straight forward where you were heading, you have to deviate," she reflects. "But you have to make the best of it." 

Amidst her battles, Freeman found solace and purpose in unexpected places. Her encounter with excessive hair growth, a side effect of thyroid cancer treatment, led her to discover the field of electrolysis. "I started having the treatment done for the hair growth and decided that you know what, I could help people," she shares. Therefore, Freeman transitioned from cancer patient to electrologist, channeling her experiences into aiding others on their journeys. 

Freeman also shares her journey towards a more health-conscious lifestyle, driven by the desire to protect her children from similar health challenges. 

"I changed that perspective health-wise just to be more aware and to protect my children, you know, and who have grown up to be healthy adults who have children and they've passed that on (a healthy lifestyle) to their children. I'm so happy they have because they're both into the physical fitness and healthy lifestyle and so are their children. I'm so appreciative of that.” 

Furthermore, Freeman describes her proactive steps in altering her cooking habits, opting for homemade meals over store-bought convenience items. She explains, “I changed the way I cooked. I started making everything myself. I never bought. I stopped buying salad dressings. I stopped buying vegetable dips. I stopped buying prepared foods. I started making everything from scratch and knowing what was in that food that I was putting in our bodies. So that was something else I learned. I'm pretty good at that now.” 

Throughout her trials, Freeman’s unwavering resolve was inspired by the unwavering support of her family. "My husband and my kids were so supportive," she recalls. "My daughter was just six, my son nine... I had to tell them in a way that their education could accept." Their resilience and maturity mirrored Freeman’s own, creating a strong defense against sickness. 

Freeman’s resilience extends beyond her personal battles, manifesting in her advocacy for proactive healthcare and self-empowerment. "Be your own advocate," she urges. "If it isn't working, then you have to trust me [yourself] and believe in me [yourself]." Her advocacy echoes through her involvement in dragon boat racing where she promotes a healthy lifestyle for people facing cancer head-on. 

As Freeman embraces life with her diagnosis, her outlook remains bright: she envisions a future brimming with hope and potential. "I'm just hoping to live to be 100," she adds, her laughter echoing the richness of a life fully embraced. 

Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chantel Downes is a graduate of The King's University, with a passion for writing and storytelling. Originally from Edmonton, she received her degree in English and has a minor in communications.
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