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This fundraiser ended on 02/18/13

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Karen needs support in her time of need battling breast cancer. Let's help to give her all the strength we can!

This fundraiser is for my wife, Karen Sykora. This is her story.


Karen was always a bright, vibrant, independent woman full of joy and a love for life. She loved reading, playing with our little dog, driving, swimming, and going to Disney World.  She loved going out with friends, had a career early on in life as a dance instructor, and always kept a happy outgoing personality. She even used to be an Area Greeter at Epcot, interacting with the guests daily.  She always loved her jobs, which she excelled at, and loved working every day.  Whether it was as a dance instructor, working for Disney, in an office, or when she began working from home, she always managed to shine above all the other workers, making herself one of the best at anything she did.


Her various medical problems actually started early on in her life.


Karen has dealt with chronic headaches since the age of 9, due to a neurological disorder that presents itself like seizures.  She has been prescribed various medications throughout her life for this, and now seems to have it mostly under control.  In 2005, she had to have a hysterectomy due to cysts and endometriosis that she had dealt with for almost ten years.  Then, in 2008, she was diagnosed with gastroparesis after her weight had dropped drastically, and she spent 15 days hospitalized in the Progressive Care Unit. 


For everything that was ever thrown at her, she “toughed it out” so that these medical conditions throughout her life only slowed her down slightly on rare occasions, and she did everything possible to continue taking care of herself and her family. 



Then, in early 2010, she developed pain in her hands and wrists, which resulted in two carpal tunnel release surgeries on her left hand, the second one requiring a graft from her left hip into her left hand.  Both surgeries went horribly wrong, and she has lost mobility of her left hand, and lives with constant pain. Now, as a result of the graft, she can no longer walk even short distances before pain sets into her hip, and makes it extremely difficult for her to continue.  This has now made it impossible for Karen to continue working.  She can no longer type, or even hold a pen.  She can no longer hold a steering wheel to drive.  She constantly drops things due to lack of grip.  


Since she cannot drive, Karen has been primarily housebound for the last two years.  I work two jobs to try to make ends meet, but that requires Karen to be alone a lot.  Due to the pain and isolation, Karen has developed agoraphobia, which has gradually worsened to the point that it has become difficult for her to even go outside. 


Even through all this, Karen tried to stay positive.  She was determined to get back to work after the carpal tunnel surgeries, but her hands never got better.


Then, in August of this year, she found a lump.


She woke up in the middle of the night with horrible pain in her right breast.  After a self exam, she was pretty well decided it was in fact a lump, and a doctor’s visit was made for the next day.  After the initial tests, we were assured it was “Probably nothing to worry about, because 90% of these results come back just fine, and pain is not typically associated with cancer.”  Then the results from the tests started coming in.  Karen was diagnosed with “aggressive invasive mammary carcinoma”.


She had breast cancer.


Additional testing was needed.  We were initially told it would be a simple lumpectomy, but they had caught the cancer early and all would be okay.


Then the test results came in.


The cancer was much bigger than they had expected.  It still had not spread, but would require a more radical surgery than “a simple lumpectomy”.  She had to have a full mastectomy of her right breast.


Karen’s surgery was on September 25th.


Now, she is recovering from the surgery, but chest and arm pain, combined with the emotional scarring, has left her in a depression, feeling like less of a woman.  Her agoraphobia has intensified, and she is now unable to even step outside in the daytime, due to feeling self conscious of her condition.


I have had the unfortunate perspective of watching for two years as her lively spirit has been slowly chipped away.  Since the mastectomy, even deep breathing has become painful.  Her right arm mobility is limited.  Basic things we take for granted, she can no longer do: writing, typing, holding a book, cooking, tying shoelaces or wearing clothing with buttons or zippers, picking up or holding our small dog, driving or swimming.


Karen had been with her employer for 10 years, having worked her way up in the company.  She had a great salary from a job she loved.  Now, being a one income family, we are scrambling to cover the costs of cancer treatment. 


The insurance does not cover 100%, plus we have yet to meet our out-of-pocket expense for the year.  Being so close to the end of the year, we are very concerned about these expenses beginning again in January. On top of this, Karen’s prosthetics and mastectomy bras are out-of-network, and result in larger payments on our part.


Then, just when we try to get ahead, something in our house will require repairs, or veterinary bills come up, or a doctor will advise another test for Karen.  We have had to put her other medical conditions, such as her hands, on hold because we can’t afford the co-pay or co-insurance for testing, treatment or anything else right now.


We have always managed to get by with my income and stay current on our bills, but we have been forced to sell some of Karen’s prized possessions, such as her car.  We have inquired into refinancing the house, and have even discussed trying to sell our home.  We have also sold a few things on eBay. We have submitted several applications for charitable assistance, but in one way or another we don’t qualify, or our efforts are ignored.


I have set up this fundraiser in the hopes that by letting you know Karen’s entire story, you might be able to help me relieve some of the financial burden that threatens us.  By helping Karen, you would allow her to focus more on healing herself not only physically, but most importantly mentally and emotionally. 


Please help me give Karen her strength back!


~Stephen Sykora




**Any proceeds raised beyond Karen’s needs will be donated to research for Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, the disease that took away the most wonderful man I have ever met, Karen’s beloved Daddy, William.**

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