Principal Teaches Lesson of Early Detection

Having a career, raising children, and being active in the community creates a hectic lifestyle for any woman. Those three things describe Karen Stephens. Her job as an elementary school principal and a mother was what kept her going until one day, when her doctor told her she had breast cancer. Now a little over a year later, she's back to her old self again, thanks to the support she got from her job, her family, and especially from her two daughters.

Stephens says, "I ignored it for about three to four months, because I have had a history of cystic fibroid disease, and I thought it was a fibroid cyst." But the news Stephens soon found out was much more devastating. She had breast cancer, and had to go through aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. "I felt that my children's security was being threatened, their livelihood, my health. I felt at that point that everything was over," Stephens says. The chemotherapy hit her hard. The school principal who was known by everyone to be strong, was now weak. It was something that was obvious to all the teachers and students at Bell City Elementary, and especially to her two daughters. "There was a difference in the climate in our house during the chemotherapy," Stephens says. "It was difficult for her them. I had always been the one who took care of them and their needs, and I wasn't able to do that anymore." Her seven-year-old daughter Annie says,"She wasn't around as much as we used to have her." Her 12-year-old daughter Emilie says, "I really missed her while she was sick, I think everybody did." It was a time that brought the family together, and made them stronger. Emilie saw herself taking over a different role. "She was always in bed. I got to play the role of mom, put my sister in bed, cook, and I took care of mom," Emilie says. Now Stephens has taken back that role. She's healthy, and strong enough to take care of her children again, and the other children she cares about, her students.

Stephens says her battle with breast cancer has led to one positive thing. Now all the teachers at Bell City are more aware of the disease and of the importance of early detection. She says knowing to get mammograms and do monthly check-ups is the best lesson she and the other teachers have ever learned.