He Provides the Shoes

Breast cancer survivor pens book

Nurse who has no risk factors writes her journey

GREENCASTLE — "Someone told me, if God wants you to walk a path, He'll provide the shoes," Karen Holmes recalled. Thus was the inspiration for the title of Holmes' book, He Provides the Shoes: Walking with God through Breast Cancer. The book, published this year, chronicles her battle against breast cancer from her diagnosis through treatment and into recovery.

The diagnosis

In November 2005, Holmes, a nurse, felt a lump under her left armpit.

"It was about the size of a pea," said Holmes, 47, who has 16 years of experience as a neurosurgical nurse and a clinical nursing instructor. "I was scheduled for a routine mammogram in two months anyway."

In January 2006, her mammogram showed "something odd and they asked me to come back for a repeat," she said. I had that, and the results were still unclear. Then I had an MRI, but it was still inconclusive."

In February 2006, a surgeon performed a biopsy and the pathology report was positive for cancer.

"It turned out to be more aggressive than the doctors initially thought and they decided to give all the big guns," Holmes said. "One week later, I had a lumpectomy, then chemotherapy and radiation. They also removed several lymph nodes, all of which were negative (for cancer)."

In total, she underwent 15 months of chemotherapy, including the antibody HER+2 (herceptin), which is administered through a mediport and improves the prognosis, and 33 consecutive weekday radiation treatments.

Low risk

Holmes, who was 43 at the time of her diagnosis, was not in any of the categories usually associated with the risk of breast cancer — she had no family history of the disease, and she stays in shape by running. She gets regular mammograms.

"One in eight women will get diagnosed with breast cancer," Holmes said. I'm a nurse and I never understood what they were going through … when they were going through treatments. I was mad, devastated. I couldn't believe it. Others couldn't believe it."

What pulled her and her family — husband Brian, a neurosurgeon, and children Patrick, 19, Melissa, 12, and Caroline, 9, — through was their faith.

"Through the dark days, God made it known He was walking every step of the way with me. I cried out to God," Holmes recalled.

Journal chronicle

Holmes' book started out as a chronicle of her journey.

"I began it without the intention of writing a book," Holmes said. What made her publish the book was the realization that "I didn't know what people went through."

She explained that often people mean to say or do the right thing, but it comes across wrong or they get tongue-tied. The book is for other cancer survivors but also for others to find fortitude, she said.

Since her treatment, Holmes has been cancer-free. She has mammograms and MRIs every six months, alternating.

"Everything, praise God, has been clean," she said.


Holmes will be signing copies of her book from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 9, at Borders in Hagerstown. All proceeds from the book go to cancer research.

Originally published in The Record Herald, Vol. 162 No. 43, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, Saturday, May, 2, 2009.


Contact the Author:

Karen Holmes would love to hear from you! Whether you (or someone close to you) are a cancer survivor or are currently in the midst of conquering the disease, or simply if this book has touched your heart and encouraged you in any way, please feel free to CONTACT THE AUTHOR.

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