Karen Hill Ambler

Breast CancerCaregiver

Greencastle, IN



Karen Hill Ambler has been a florist for 30 years in Greencastle, Indiana. Here, she has made connections and friends that are like family to her. To her, cancer is not a stranger: her father died from cancer and she personally overcame cancer in both breasts. Karen stated, “Medicine does so much, but friends do more. Support does even more. Once you find people that you know, they want to talk, you're here to talk.” Going through this experience, she has learned so much and was supported by many friends, family, fellow church members, doctors, and nurses. Seven surgeries later, Karen is cancer-free and undergoes regular check-ups every six months.

Cancer is a Gift

As someone said to me, cancer can be a gift because once you have cancer, you really have an overflow of warm wishes and your friends come out and they nurture you and the cards you receive are just unbelievable. So I am much richer for having cancer than I was. I feel that way.

It turned out to be a friend. Cancer has introduced me to people I never knew. I've heard wonderful stories and for those who didn't make it, your heart goes out because you did and there's nothing that you can say that takes the place of them. You know they're no longer in pain.

In the business I'm in, where you are sitting right now, families sit and we talk about their funerals. And we talk about how they died and what they died of. Most of the time it's cancer and I can't truly say that my voice doesn't quiver a little when I talk to them because I've been there, I know about it. But it happens every day and I feel somehow that everybody has a purpose - everybody has a gift. Mine has been cancer because I can talk to people about it, people who come in who have lost their loved ones - they've gone on to something better.

Trust in God

I am very glad that I was able to see my grandchildren and my daughter, because at the time you hear, it goes through your mind, “'Will I see my kids raised? Will I see my grandchildren?” Terrible thoughts go through. God comes in and He answers those and you become better. You learn to live with it and after so long, you become a soldier.

I'm out five years. I just graduated. But there isn't a day that goes by, in the beginning, that you don't wonder “what will tomorrow bring?” But I'm beyond that now and being at the age I am, God has given me more years than He has a lot of people. So I feel very thankful that He has done this for me because He's the one that knows what's written.

Get Checked and Be a Soldier

You know, my daughter, I'm very concerned for her. Her doctor would not give her a mammogram until she was 40. I think this is something that needs to stop. People younger than you girls are coming down with breast cancer or some form of cancer. And they will find a cure to this, I'm sure they will. But until then, I cannot stress a mammogram enough. The doctor that found mine was very young. After I went through my surgeries, I went back and I looked at him and said, “thank you.” He said, “you're the first one that has ever said thank you.” So I felt good, I felt good about that. But your family doctor, you know, they are just that - family doctors. They are not specialists and I can't stress enough to look for a breast cancer specialist.

Just have your yearly physicals and make sure you have a good doctor.

And you don't have to feel anything. I never did. I never had a lump - not one. But it was there. It was a trial time and it was a time of fear. But you overcome that. I don't get up every morning wondering what today is going to bring as far as cancer's concerned.  For a lot of women, it reoccurs. So be it. If I'm the one to spread the news and to talk to people, that's fine because God gives us no more than we can handle. You gotta be brave.

Well, you know that anytime that you have what you consider a lump, sometimes it's nothing. But it just might be something, and God might've chosen you to go on as a soldier. I think it's one of the biggest armies going: the breast cancer army.