Chandler woman races to benefit cancer fight - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler woman races to benefit cancer fight

November 9th, 2021 development
Chandler woman races to benefit cancer fight

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Chandler resident Karen Vickers went to Indiana in 2010 seeking answers. She had just been told she has a very rare and aggressive form of cancer and she had maybe three years to live.

She found the answers that she credits, in part, for keeping her alive 11 years later, but they didn’t come the way she thought they would. This weekend she plans to run in the New York City Marathon for the third time as part of the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation program. It will be her seventh overall marathon.

“It felt like the ground was being pulled out from underneath me,” Vickers said of her diagnosis of a malignant phyllodes tumor. “My daughter was only 12 at the time. … she was just finishing up middle school.”

The American Cancer Society explains DetermiNation as an “event endurance program, spanning a variety of sports including cycling, running, hiking, yoga, and more. The collective efforts of the dedicated athletes who use their fortitude to help raise funds to take down cancer are nothing short of amazing.”

Vickers said she didn’t know if she would live to see her daughter graduate high school. She did, and so much more. She also saw her son graduate and now has welcomed a grandchild to the family.

She has been cancer free since the 2010 surgery that removed a portion of her lung.

“The nurses from United Healthcare kept calling me and they said, ‘You have a very rare aggressive disease, you have a very poor prognosis, what are your doctors doing?’” Vickers said. “I said I had surgery, I’m good. They said, no, you need to travel to a big cancer center and see doctors, and blah, blah, blah.”

So she and her husband traveled to Indiana, hoping to find a way to extend that poor prognosis.

“For me it wasn’t a good experience,” Vickers said. “They didn’t really have any answers for me other than move there and start some really aggressive chemo. I felt I was cancer free.”

She and her husband went back to their hotel and saw a video on TV, spontaneous healing by Dr. Andrew Wiel.

“I just pulled out my notebook,” Vickers said. “We went there with a lot of hope, trying to find answers. And we came home and felt that wasn’t the right option for us. I chose not to have any chemo.”

Instead, she watches what she eats. Vickers eliminated diet sodas and prepackaged foods and added in regular exercise. Goodbye Lean Cuisine, hello kale.

“We made a lifestyle shift at that point because it was a matter of life or death,” she said.

Running marathons has helped ease some of the guilt she felt when diagnosed. Her daughter had earned a trip to Washington, DC because of a project she did in middle school. The whole family was going to go for the National History Day celebration, but then her doctor called and said she needed surgery.

“I told the doctor I’ll have surgery when I get back from that trip, and he said, ‘No, you can’t wait. You have to cancel the trip — go for surgery.’ She didn’t get to go.”

A few years later Vickers and her daughter flew to Washington, DC to run the Marine Corps Marathon. Despite both getting injured during that event, they completed it.

“I had sprained my ankle, and she had twisted her knee,” Vickers said. “When the Marines are cheering for you, and telling you to keep going, you just keep going.”

Vickers says she’s not a fast marathon runner. She does a combination of running and walking. Missing part of her lung definitely impacts her endurance.

There are no DetermiNation running events in Arizona, something Vickers said she hopes changes. She plans to run in the Lost Dutchman Marathon in February that starts in Gold Canyon.

However, she worries because they have a time limit and she’s not sure she can finish in six and a half hours.

But Vickers says she feels this is part of her purpose in life.

“It kind of helped change my focus from being a cancer patient and getting stuck in that. It’s been very good for me.”


To help

If you would like to donate to the American Cancer Society in Kare Vickers name, visit and search for her name.