YOUR story : karmen

  Thursday, 6.13.13

i had the extreme honor of meeting Karmen for the i want to know YOUR story project.

… & for those of you who know Karmen, you know exactly what i mean when i say ‘extreme honor’. she is truly one of the strongest people that i have ever met with the most radiant of personalities & fullest of hearts.

we did Karmen’s story in two parts – i asked her 'the 3-ish questions' & then also interviewed her when i came to her home to snap some pics. her story is written below from my perspective as the interviewer, but her words entirely.

as you know, everyone’s story is unique & their own… & this story needed to be told this way.

i would say ‘i hope you enjoy’… but somehow, i know you will.

without further ado,
please meet Karmen.
this is her story.

who are you, where are you from, what excites you, what is your PASSION... what's your story?

" i am a mom. i am from Detroit & a breast cancer SURVIVOR! my son, VanNess is my ROCK, my PASSION. "

when I walked into her home to meet VanNess & capture them,
Karmen informed me that a few days before she was told she may have bone cancer...
& after having just gone through breast cancer,
to say that this was absolutely devastating news would be an understatement.

“I don’t want anyone to go through this experience because this is NOTHING you want to go through. Trust me."

of course, she wasn’t sure if i should still come over that day...

“So I put my head to the Bible & just kept praying,
I just want to know before she gets here…
I almost called you to cancel. When you are not in good spirits, you almost can’t do anything.
It is like a big weight is on top of you.“

however, not even minutes before i arrived she received the call that she was indeed

“I am just SO grateful. There are no words.”

I can tell you from that smile of hers, the gratitude was literally written all over her glowing face.
i believe that God’s timing is always perfect…
& in this moment, for me to be here to capture her grace & glory, perfect it was.

“Experiencing breast cancer has changed me.
I am taking life more easy breezy, whereas before I was worried ALL THE TIME.
I’m more relaxed instead of being more uptight & defensive.
I don’t stress about the small things. You just don’t look at things the same way. I’m trying new things now...
you just have to do whatever makes you happy NOW.
Not later, TODAY. don’t wait.”

her 19 year old son, VanNess, watches over her, checks on her when she is sleeping, texts her all the time…
he is her ROCK.

“I couldn’t even put it in words what he means to me.”

…and it was pretty evident to me as i captured their special bond.
their love, respect & admiration towards each other is not only beautiful,
but incredibly inspiring.

they even got matching tatoos after Karmen found out she had breast cancer.

i asked Karmen how she first found out she had breast cancer.

“I went in for asthma & while there, it came up that I had peeling skin on my nipple.
They insisted on a mammogram… and I knew at that moment.

To be honest, I knew a year ago but I was afraid to face the reality of it.
Now looking back I feel that was the stupidest decision & want to encourage women to take care of themselves.
To listen to their bodies & NOT be afraid – catch it before it is too late.

“...I feel that God messed up my asthma to make me go to the doctors…
& do you know, they never even treated me for asthma?
It cleared up the very next day.”

Karmen was treated at the Mt. Clemens McLaren Macomb Health Services by Dr. Knechtl.

“From the depths of my heart, I looooooooove Dr. Knechtl!
He listens, he is patient, he is in tune with you.
The entire medical oncology & hematology team is really amazing there.
It’s like they took all of the nicest people & put them in one spot!
They know me by name… which amazes me because you know they see A LOT of people.”

“Now I choose to enjoy my LIFE.
I laugh a lot about my cancer because i refuse to cry.
Don't get me wrong -- i have cried and still do, but only 10% of the time.
The time I do cry is when I wear ‘the bra’. it makes me depressed when i have it on.
When I lost my hair, I did not like wearing a wig. i just put on a hat most of the time & I went with out one.

For me going without 'the bra' and wig makes me feel good. It feels like me, which feels best.”

“i want people to know to never give up
you have to find that ONE thing worth fighting for.
When people hear I had cancer, the usual response is “aww”…
I don’t need your sympathy – I have my LIFE! I am BLESSED!

Truly. I lost my breast,
but I have my LIFE!
so I will keep on smiling."

"People are always stunned that I had cancer,,,
but I can only be me. and so that’s what I’ll be."

what are 3 words that describe you & your LIFE?


who do you LOVE?

My son, VanNess, with everything i have in me.

i also had the pleasure of meeting Mykeya, VanNess’s best friend.
she has been there for Karmen through all of this, as well.
she is like a daughter to her… & not to mention absolutely gorgeous!

Karmen also happens to love SIX four-legged furry little friends ...
please meet all her dogs,
Mikey, Simba, Gabbana, Jose, Princess & Dolce!

last, but not least, i asked Karmen
'what her most favorite quote was?!'

"i think it would have to be
'Never could have made it without You'
by Marvin Sapp.

"The whole song, actually. it is so great! you have to hear it."
... as she starts singing,

Never would have made it
Never could have made it without You
I would have lost it all
But now I see how You were there for me

And I can say
Never would have made it
Never could have made it
Without You...

"Makes me tear up every time."
of course i HAD to share the video with you, too.

Karmen,,, you are AMAZING.
thank you so much for sharing YOUR story!

with love & admiration,


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