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Karin's Story

A breast cancer suvivor's inspirational story!

Breast cancer survivor and Paddle For Hope founder Karin Horen was just 26 years old when she discovered cancer in her right breast. Luckily she found it in time, and after a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Karin went back to living life to the fullest, using her voice to encourage others to be aware of their bodies and vigilant about their health.

In January 2013, 14 years after discovering breast cancer for the first time, the beautiful mother of three young daughters found that three suspicious tumours she could feel in her other breast were malignant. She underwent a skin-sparing mastectomy in March to remove all the breast tissue, then started six months of aggressive chemotherapy. Next up is more surgery, radiotherapy and a reconstruction.

"No surgery will remove what I have in me and what I have to give, no chemo will erase and no radiotherapy will burn. I am meant to be here and with my passion, experience and love help others.

I could not be more grateful that this time, again, I listened to my body, I knew something was not right and I kept going to the clinic to make sure I got the right answers. And there it was! My message is as always: Know your body, love and trust yourself. This is the only way."

MY STORY by Karin Horen

At the age of just 26 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After losing my mother a year earlier, I had to face another challenge. Saving my own life.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was one of those women who felt something was wrong and made it the doctor on time.

He said "you are so young, its probably nothing." But an ultrasound showed it beyond doubt. It was breast cancer.

From that moment onwards, I entered a new world. For the next year while my friends were partying I had to go through chemotherapy and radiation, hoping for the best.

And I did. I always hoped, and never stopped to ask the question ??? Why me? I researched, read, asked questions, admired my scalp and embraced my hair loss, and the fact that I lost almost half of my breast. At the age of 26 when all my girlfriends wore bikinis on the beach and open dresses, I had radiation drawings on my body and went to hospital every couple of weeks for treatment which made me sick as a dog.

"I wanted to continue my life just the way it was, and not stop for a second. That is the way I felt. Desperate to win. 

But that did not stop me from getting my first big job as a media buyer in Ogilvy TLV, a big advertising agency and finishing my treatments while growing my hair back.

I went to the first interview wearing a wig, and the second interview with short hair. They thought I was that type of girl who changes hairstyle every now and then... funny. 

What kept me going you might ask? Simply it was my will to live. My breast cancer came along when I was having the time of my life, recovered from my mum's passing and was happy and social, like every 26 years old girl.

I wanted to continue my life just the way it was, and not stop for a second. That is the way I felt. Desperate to win.

I was so lucky to be diagnosed in such an early stage. Early detection and knowing my body well saved me. I kept my close friends and family around me and they followed me and supported me every day. This gave me strength. 

Knowledge and the desire to understand what is happening, what I can do to help me get through it, was the key. I was also determined that when I recovered I would help others.

After 5 years, when I got the ALL CLEAR, I went for a reconstruction. I was quite happy with results and I felt I got my femininity back. Strange how these little things, like 250cc, can re-build your confidence as a woman. I gave my wig away to a friend, Shirly who I met while getting treatment at the hospital In Jerusalem. Unfortunately, she passed away 3 years later.

But although my boobs had been reshaped and I had a new lovely sexy cleavage, in my memories, and my soul there is a scar.

I do carry a physical scar on my right breast as well. I am proud of that scar and when I was told by a doctor that he could treat it, I told him it is part of me and to leave it be. 

"Keep healthy. Eat well, live well, exercise, meditate, take good care of your body and soul."

In April 2007 against the odds I gave birth to our first baby girl. Huia Maya. In October 2010 I gave birth to our second daughter. Mokoia Ilana. In January 2012, we had our third daughter, Pania Jean. 

Is there hope? Of course there is. I pray every day that someone will find a cure for cancer. And that women will not die from this disease any more.

For the memory of my dear friend Shirly Luria and for the memory of others, for the joy of those amazing courageous survivors. I carry this flag of hope.

I am happy to be able to give something of myself to The Pinc and Steel Cancer Rehabilitation Trust. I am asking all women to be aware of their own bodies, the changes they go through. Know your body and cherish it. 1 in 9 women in New Zealand will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Research and early detection, as well as new treatments, enable these women to live.

I have been training consistently for the past 12 years and it gives me strength and positive energy. It clears my mind and makes me more aware of my body. I totally recommend good nutrition and a weekly exercise routine. 

Almost two years ago, I was introduced by my dear partner, Manu, to this amazing sport of Stand Up Paddle boarding. The first time I got on a board I could just feel my body floating on the water, relaxed and calm as I paddled away into the ocean. I stood firm and allowed myself to be carried away. It's that kind of sport where you can just drift away, or race like a warrior. I realized what I could get from it, and I have been paddling ever since. When I want to get away, I can just ride slowly to the distance, and when I want to get the real fitness out of it I paddle hard. The fighter in me gets out. ??It's a great feeling. You will love it too.

I am 40 today and ALIVE.

HOPE. COURAGE. LOVE. FAMILY. WISDOM. This is what I carry with me in my heart. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

Join Karin in her amazing Paddle For Hope.

As part of her recovery in 2014, Karin started stand up paddling 3 months after surgery. "I just take it gently, on clear days in the marina. For me the emotional and holistic benefits of getting out on the water with my friends are just as important as the physical benefits. Just a few months after the surgery to remove my breast, lymph nodes and tissue from under my arm, my flexibility and strength are returning faster than I could ever have imagined. SUP helps me feel healthy and normal again. 

Despite her own ongoing chemotherapy and surgery, Karin is determined to offer the same opportunity for other women recovering from breast cancer. Karin is now working with fellow paddlers Kristin Percy and Victoria Stuart to develop a clinically-endorsed SUP rehabilitation for people recovering from breast cancer. Kristin is the secretary of NZ Stand Up Paddling Incorporated and a qualified SUP Instructor. She has also used SUP to rehabilitate after breast cancer surgery.

As part of this project, the Paddle For Hope team and Pinc and Steel Cancer Rehabilitation Trust will fund a clinical study into the physical and psychological benefits of stand up paddle boarding in breast cancer rehabilitation.

“We already know how amazing stand up paddling is on every level – that’s why we paddle. There are so many benefits – from the incredible healing power of the ocean and the meditative effect of paddling on it, to the camaraderie of going together with your friends, or even just the feeling of getting out in the fresh air and doing something physical with your whole body. This is different to any kind of rehab program you can do with a physio or in a gym, and we are really excited to be funding a study that, as far as we know, is the first clinical assessment of the benefits.

“It is so important for women to be active after breast cancer surgery. So many women don’t do sports, putting themselves at risk of a slower recovery, painful or unpleasant complications like lymphoedema, and even permanent loss of flexibility and strength. But here is a sport that is easily accessible by women of all ages, and that uses the whole body: core, back, arms and legs. The impact on your joints is low but the impact on your wellbeing is very high. You don’t have to race or surf on a Stand Up Paddleboard. It really is just like walking, on water.”

Come walk on water with Karin and be one of hundreds of paddlers painting the sea pink on Saturday, 7th November 2015, to help women and men recover from breast cancer.

Read Karin's blog and visit her website