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Profile: Karen Pollitz

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“I will never forget the day – April 2, 1996 – that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Getting a mammogram was one thing on a long list of things I had to do that day. Once I heard the diagnosis, my day kind of fell apart,” says Karen Pollitz, who was 37 at the time of her diagnosis, with two small children. “The feeling you get after you hear that diagnosis is an instant loss of control. It’s like a free fall.” The doctor recommended a lumpectomy, then chemotherapy. The thought of undergoing chemotherapy was especially scary for Karen.

Reach To Recovery…”Someone to lean on.”
Shortly after her diagnosis, a Reach to Recovery volunteer named Nancy called her to talk about the diagnosis. Reach to Recovery, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, is an American Cancer Society program that pairs survivors with newly diagnosed patients for support and friendship. To Karen, “It was an amazing tonic to see someone who’d already gone through this come into my house calm and put together.” Visiting with the Reach volunteer stopped her feeling of free fall and helped her to see she could get through this and get her life back. “After my first chemo, I came home and called Nancy immediately to tell her about it,” recalls Karen, adding how reassuring it was to have someone to lean on.

Look Good…Feel Better…”It was nice to feel pampered.”
During one of their visits, Nancy told Karen about Look Good…Feel Better, offered through the American Cancer Society, in collaboration with the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association Foundation and the National Cosmetology Association. This year, Look Good…Feel Better celebrates its 15th anniversary of helping women deal with the appearance-related side effects cancer treatment can cause. Karen admits she went into the program with slight apprehension, but says, “It was the most fun I had during chemo and I didn’t think it was possible to have fun during chemo. It was like a tea party for grown-ups…we had cake and goodies and got to sit around and do make-up.” In LGFB group sessions, each participant receives a box of cosmetic supplies, and then volunteer cosmetologists give tips on how to apply the makeup and how to take care of your skin during your treatment. In addition, volunteers teach participants about a variety of headwear options, including the types of wigs available and how to care for them. “It was nice to feel pampered and have someone take care of me, not like a patient, like a princess,” says Karen. She recommends the program to women even if they don’t think they are going to be self-conscious, mainly because it’s a good way during treatment to be with other women in a positive setting, and outside the treatment room.

Karen became a Reach to Recovery volunteer herself a couple of years after her treatment because, in her own words, “It’s a nice thing to do as a volunteer, and it reminds you what is important.” She currently is a healthcare policy researcher at Georgetown University, focused on private health insurance and protection for the uninsurable. This is a field she had worked in before before her diagnosis, and one that hits particularly close to home since.

Para solicitar información en español, llame al 1-800-ACS-2345. Un especialista en información sobre el cáncer le asistirá en español..

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