Super Survivor Faces Her Greatest Mental and Physical Challenge

Super-Survivor-Carol-HarmsWhen Carol Harms went in for her annual mammogram this February and a suspicious spot was found, she didn’t give it too much thought.

There’s very little presence of cancer in her family. And she had been feeling intermittently unwell since November, so she thought the spot might be an anomaly. The previous year, her mammogram required a follow-up mammogram, which turned out to be nothing.

She was more concerned about the biopsy six days later. She recalled thinking, “I’m going to have to do this biopsy, and it’s going to hurt.”

After the biopsy, reality set in as she came to terms with the fact that cancer was a possibility. “It just never dawned on me that this could be part of my world,” Carol said.

Be Aware Women’s Fair
A Chatham resident in her mid-40s, Carol is one of three women who were randomly chosen as Super Survivors to be honored at this year’s Memorial’s Be Aware Women’s Fair. The seventh annual event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Super Survivors are women whose breast cancer journeys have been an inspiration to others. Their unique stories will be shared with fair-goers when the Super Survivors reveal their makeovers, courtesy of BJ Grand Salon and Spa, and their new outfits.

See the reactions of the three Super Survivors when they were surprised with the news.

Diagnosis & Treatment
Carol, who serves as the executive director of the Sangamon County Medical Society, was returning home from a business trip in Chicago when she received the call that confirmed she had cancer. A colleague was driving, and she was a passenger in the car.

“I immediately burst into tears,” she recalled. “My first thought was ‘I’m going to die.’” She called her husband, Kevin, and then her mom to let them know the news.

Carol met with a surgeon a few days later. The lump turned out to be smaller than expected, and the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes. Carol’s lumpectomy was scheduled about three weeks later in mid-March. Waiting for the surgery proved to be excruciating for Carol.

“All I could think was, ‘Get it out of my body,’” she recalled. “This tumor was in my body, and I didn’t know how fast it might be growing.”

Carol’s chemotherapy is expected to be completed in early September and will be followed by radiation treatments in mid-November.

Inspiration for Carol
A member of Southside Christian Church in Springfield, Carol has drawn on her faith as well as family and friends to help her through her journey. A comforting Bible verse for her has been Acts 2:26, which reads “… my body also will rest in hope.”

Her friends and family “don’t let me stay in any sad moments very long.” Being able to laugh and make jokes help, she said. While she is a typically positive person, “this has tested my sense of humor,” she said.

Her husband and son, 12-year-old Ryan, “don’t let me be weak. They push me, and I need that. I want them doing that,” she said.

The most challenging part has been to let others help her. “It’s not a weakness to let people be able to help you,” she said.

“This is mentally and physically the most challenging thing I’ve ever been through,” Carol said. “But this is part of my journey, and I’ll get through this.”