A Cancer Nobody Likes to Talk About - Karen Cadenhead's Journey
May 15, 2021
Karen Cadenhead was thrown into the world of cancer when she was diagnosed with anal cancer. We discuss the many challenges of cancer treatment, how to enlist help, how to build a community, ways to connect and reconnect to sources of happiness, how to take small steps, friends groups, handing the information flow for family and friends, and how to manage some of the hardest aspects of being on chemotherapy and many other drugs.
Karen Cadenhead is an artist and sculptor who lives on a houseboat in Sausalito. She spent her professional career as Director of Art Therapy at a Children’s Psychiatric and Pediatric Medical Center. She went on to teach at the Graduate Institute of Expressive Therapy in Cambridge, MA. She met her husband while serving on the Board of the American Art Therapy Association. (He was their outside counsel.)
Karen spent most of her life suffering from severe and frequent Migraine headaches and spent almost 50 years searching for cures and learning how to not only advocate for herself but to try to make lemonade out of a horrible disease. She found a creative way to make the suffering have meaning: Her dissertation was written about the Alchemy of turning Migraines into gold, and becoming a “wounded healer.” This experience prepared her for the cancer diagnosis she got at age 70. She has found several art forms to express this journey, and has much to share about self advocacy.
As of June 2021, Karen continues monthly treatment of immunotherapy. She was told by her doctor that the every 2 month scans can be reduced to every six months! Her cancer has not progressed since she began her latest treatment 20 months ago. The lesions in her lungs, liver, and lymph nodes have reduced by over 60% and her liver lesion continues to shrink. She continues to treat her side effects using acupuncture, massage and supplements. She is very interested in the gut biome and studies related to positive outcomes when certain bacteria are present. She notes that the book, Radical Remission, given to her the first month of treatment almost three years ago, explains 9 most common factors that cancer "thrivers" have in common. When she last checked on the list, Karen was pleased to see she has incorporated all 9 of those factors into her life. She reports feeling happier and enjoying life more than she did before cancer. She recognizes that she has also been very lucky, and likes to give back by helping others as they go through these life-altering journeys with serious diseases.
Karen continues to live on the houseboat with her husband and occasional visits from their two grown boys. You can find Karen on Instagram @karensculptor.