Karen Marie Mason
No Regrets and Looking
Towards the Future
By Phenomgirl / October 4, 2018
One word comes to mind when describing Karen Marie Mason, and that is..."brave". To take the diagnosis of Stage IV breast cancer out of the equation, Karen is like most women. She's a sister-friend, mother, daughter, marketing specialist and musician artists manager entrepreneur. Put the breast cancer back into the equation then we see a "fighter" who has made a decision most women with advanced breast cancer diagnosis wouldn't dare think of doing---to heal one-self without traditional breast cancer medical treatment. Vital treatments needed in order to "stay alive."
The reaction from some folks upon hearing Karen's decision ranges from concerned, disbelief, speechless, and yes, the words "crazy" and "nuts" were mentioned a few times. But when Karen posted a picture of her cancerous breast on her IG page, (which have been shared many times over) she received responses of encouragement and compassion.
With family and friends support, Karen has embarked on an emotional and tough road after learning of her medical diagnosis. Make note that Karen does not encourage others to follow her path. This is her journey, her choice, a decision she has made for herself. A decision which she is sternly committed to. Karen looks to the future with great optimism. She focuses on the growth of a just launched record label and with unwavering confidence, hopes her management company will continue to grow and blossom. Those are sentiments we all wish for Karen.
How are you feeling at this moment?
At this very moment I am doing well. I have learned in the last couple of years that focusing on the future and the past can take up a lot of head space. The future is not real…yet and the past is no longer the present. There was a time when I would answer your question in the past or in the future in mind. But the only accurate answer is what I am feeling at this very moment. And at this very moment I am doing well.
Are there any women in your family who have Breast Cancer?
Not that I know of. I say it like that because our families and Black women specifically tend to suffer in silence. We don’t often share this information for any number of reasons.
When I first told my mother I had breast cancer her first response was to recite a list of diseases that DO run in our family like high blood pressure, diabetes. Her response was “we don’t get that.” Her second response was “don’t tell anyone.” A sister told me the other day that she was a full blown adult before finding out that her mother had a mastectomy over 10 years before.
Were you getting yearly mammograms?
I did get mammograms. My breast were fibrosystic so they tend to be lumpy. Mammograms are NOT full proof and oftentimes do not tell the full story. I was listening to Dr. Jewel Pookrum who said “mammogams were obviously created by a man” who probably could not conceive of a machine that would detect disease without great pain. Ultra sounds are advanced enough for detection to decide whether there should be a biopsy.
What year were you diagnosed?
I was initially diagnosed in 2013. I felt a lump. I went to hospital and had mammogram and later a biopsy and then in 2017 it escalated to Stage IV. My paperwork describes it like this: Cancer metastatic to bone, cancer female breast (right), cancer metastatic to lymph node adenocarcinoma.
What was your reaction when you were told of your diagnosis?
It felt like a dream. The doctor walked in after keeping me waiting for at least 60 minutes. I was prepared for the worst. The doctor came in the room and barely looked at me. She sat down at the computer on her desk and began putting in some info. She gave me a half turn and said you have breast cancer. Not sure what was said thereafter. But I remember her words and how cold she was.
How hard was it to tell your family/friends of your diagnosis?
Told my closest friends first. Months later I finally broke down and told my daughter. The Stage IV diagnosis really messed with me for a while. I felt like death was at my door. Everyday.
I had to work on my mind first. I had to change the way I was thinking and remove death from the equation. Remove fear from the equation.
What regimen of treatments were recommended by your doctors?
1. Chemo (first before a mastectomy)
3. More Chemo
Did you immediately decide not to have chemo or radiation or you thought about what to do over time?
I had a mastectomy scheduled. On the night before I got a premonition not to go. I sat and spoke with myself for a few hours. I had no options. I chose to listen to myself. I did not show up for the operation and to this day no one from that hospital has called, emailed and tried to contact me in any way. While this may be someone else’s journey to have a mastectomy. It was not mine.
How did your family and/or friends react to your decision to not seek traditional Breast Cancer treatment?
“She looks fine,” they say. Cancer can be very deceiving. There are many women that you work with, in your family and that you may interact with everyday that are going through different stages of cancer. “They look fine.” Is probably what you say to yourself.
I’m sure your doctors were concerned about your decision to opt out of their planned treatment for you?
It wasn’t up for discussion. I was later placed in Palliative care and that was the best thing that could have happened to me. Palliative seeks to find you comfort as this is usually the last department before hospice. The head of the hospice proceeded to make sure I got everything I wanted.
I started taking opiates for the pain. Once the pain eased a little I began to go deeper in my own treatment that would include food, supplements, exercise, mediation, tai chi, birkram yoga and other things. I knew that the cancer did not form overnight and for me it was not going to leave overnight.
I decided to slow down and give myself time. I also chose to listen to myself and to my body.
Why are you so strongly against chemo and radiation?
I am not against it if it is for you. Spirit clearly came and told me that THOSE treatments were not for me. I listened.
How soon after the diagnosis did you started self-treatment? What kind of research did you do?
My research has been continuous over the years. I change my regiment often. I monitor my body, the food I eat, my elimination, my skin, etc. basically everything. One thing always leads me to something else which leads me to something else. The first thing I added was soursop. Being from Jamaica I wanted foods that were close and in alignment with my body. From there I learned about B17 in Vietnam, Cupping in Madagascar and essential supplements from Dr. B in New York and Dr. Jewel Pookrum in Atlanta.
Can you describe what your daily self-treatment schedule is like? For instance what do you use, how much, how many and times of the day?
That’s a long list that I can provide to anyone who emails me at Karen@healingatl.com. What’s important is to know that I addressed healing from every modality. Eating, sleeping, listening, music, exercise, supplements, etc. Cancer places a heavy tax on the other organs in my body so part of my goal is to make sure I am taking supplements that enrich my liver, kidney, colon, and overall strengthen my body.
After the photoshoot which captured you revealing the cancerous breast. How did that make you feel? Did you feel empowered?
I did not feel empowered. I felt relieved. There were people I wanted to tell but didn’t. There were family members I wanted to tell but didn’t. They eventually all found out around the same time. Ha.
Every year I schedule a photo shoot with my glam squad. January was my birthday and I wanted and needed to feel good so I scheduled the shoot. My stylist got the dates mixed up and never showed…til later. I say there in my black robe looking at the make up artists and photographer and knew at that very moment that this would be a different kind of shoot. It was not planned. I dropped by robe and the photographer went to work. Up until this point I had barely even showed cleavage. But something opened up on that day. I was very comfortable with myself and my breasts.
Can you say what has happened to the cancerous breast?
Early on in my regiment I started taking bloodroot tonic. I took it internally and used it externally as well. It is caustic and at the site of the first tumor in my right breast it started to attack the tumor from the inside out which caused it to take a different shape…kinda like someone bit off a piece of the side of my breast. It’s pretty unbelievable to see it. It never scarred on the outside. Just beneath the skin.
It was at that point that I knew some of my regiment was working.
What was the feedback when you posted the picture on Instagram?
Do you have good and bad days?
Yes. My mind is in a different space now. Its less good or bad and more so “what lessons am I here to learn today.”
What’s the hardest part of living with Breast Cancer?
Now that my outlook has changed and I am clear that cancer came to teach me a number of lessons there is very little difficulty from day to day. Yes. I am tired often. Yes. I have aches and pains. But I am alive. I am clear on the lessons that cancer has and continues to teach me. I am a willing student.
Are there any regrets for not accepting chemo or radiation?
Is there a possibility you’ll change your mind about chemo or radiation?
Nope. I heard that voice loud and clear.
What are your goals and hopes for the future?
I launched my record label first quarter. My artist management company will continue to grow and blossom.