Karen Walsh has stage IV colon cancer.
She has multiple tumors in her colon, liver, and lymph nodes, and they are inoperable. What Karen Walsh does not have, however, is a single self-piteous bone in her powerful body. The Broadway actress and mother of two went to the doctor last year after her 40th birthday for what she thought were stomach cramps. The shocking diagnosis sent her reeling.
She wasn't sure if she wanted to go public with her illness, but a friend who suffered from cancer encouraged her to seek support in others. On that note, she posted a selfie that eventually morphed into a celebratory series that highlights Walsh's courage, strength, and sense of humor.
When a friend of hers who happens to be a director showed up for moral support during treatment one day, they put their creative heads together to pull off this aerialist-inspired shot.
That much-needed dose of fun was something Walsh didn't want to lose during her next round of chemo, so she and her friends went on to don costumes and capture hilarious photos week after week.
"I really view this as a coping mechanism for myself," she explained to The Huffington Post.
And no pop culture motif is off limits.
Because her cancer is inoperable, Walsh has a long road of chemotherapy ahead. She has faith that alternative treatments will catch up one day, and she's excited about the possibilities of immunotherapy.
Until then, she and her friends work to make this experience as positive as possible.
The crew brainstorms ideas via text, and they love figuring out new ways to celebrate womanhood.
"I want it to be empowering, I want there to be forward motion, and I want there to be joy or strength. I also want this to be something my daughter and son can see," she said.
Through social media, she's connected with fellow fighters and survivors. The experience continues to bring light to Walsh's darkest time.
But at the end of the day, she's still battling a devastating condition, and that's never easy.
As she told The Huffington Post, "[There are times] when I’m like, ‘Oh god, I have cancer. And I have two young kids, my husband’s company’s closing, we don’t know what we’re going to do about insurance. You know, we have a lot going on in our home that’s really stressful. I think it’s really important to let that out, but I don’t feel the need to sit in it longer than I need to sit in it."
Karen Walsh knows that keeping a positive outlook is necessary for survival, and she needs to be there for her children. She has no intention of missing them grow up. She has no intention of quitting. If you'd like to keep up with this incredible woman, be sure to follow her on Instagram!