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Keeping the Faith




Submitted by:
Danielle Gunder

There are no words to fully explain the beauty and strength within my mother, Karen Bienz. Since the late 90’s she has been fighting subependymoma brain tumors, blocking her brain fluid flow and resulting in an extremely invasive surgery to remove them. I was young when she went through this, maybe 7 or 8, and the thing I remember most vividly was her smile. Despite wires, tubes, pain, and no hair, I remember her glowing smile every time she saw my brother and I. Fast forward 20 years and although my mom’s diagnosis has changed her spirit is unbreakable. Now with 5+ tumors, of three different varieties, no one would ever guess what is going on in my mom’s head. Despite the endless doctor appointments, MRIs, headaches, and other side effects all people see is her seemingly endless amount energy, drive at work, compassion in her community, and unwavering love for her family and friends. She does not let herself be defined by her brain tumors and instead uses her experiences to support those around her. During my younger brother’s short battle with cancer my mom was able to help him in the most intimate and beautiful ways. Through their shared experiences with brain tumors, they connected on a level that is indescribable and I know changed those short 5 months we had with Steven for the better. Almost 25 years with brain tumors could be a challenge for anyone, but Karen has taken this diagnosis and used it as a catalyst for strength, change, and connection. The beauty and positivity in her soul is an amazing thing to have in a mother, a role model, and a best friend. There is nothing else like her.