Karen Anstine Lamb needs to come home. Friends and family members are trying to pave the way for her to get back to her support network.
Karen, 37, a Smithton native whose husband, Chris, is from Sedalia, was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago and underwent a mastectomy. In September, she started to experience some back pain but she attributed it to new gym workouts. In November, Karen moved from Sedalia to Crystal Lake, Ill., with Chris and their daughters Madison, 14, and Erika, 9; their son Jacob, 18, remained here to attend State Fair Community College.
During the packing process for the move, Karen’s pain persisted.
“We got up here Nov. 15, and I would have to do things slowly and not just jump right in; I didn’t have the energy I had before because it would be painful,” she said in a telephone interview. “It just felt like the pain was getting worse and worse and worse.”
By the end of January, the pain intensified to the point that she told Chris, “I can’t do this anymore.” She went to a general practitioner, who referred her to an oncologist due to her history with cancer. Because Karen was experiencing numbness in her fingers and toes, the oncologist feared she had a blood clot; scans and other tests revealed that a cancerous mass had grown on her T4 vertebrae, penetrating the bone. And despite blood tests coming back clean, a biopsy revealed that her liver tested positive for cancer, as well.
“So, I go in Monday to have a port put in and on Tuesday I will start my chemotherapy,” Karen said matter-of-factly.
She and Chris know they will need their support network to help get through this challenge, so they have made plans to come back to Sedalia. Longtime friend Amanda Balke and Karen’s sister-in-law, Stacy Anstine, are leading an effort to raise $10,000 to help cover some of Karen’s medical and relocation costs. Stacy launched a campaign through the FundRazr website (fundrazr.com/campaigns/4hTV2) that has already brought in almost $1,800.
“We have lived in Kansas, Oregon, Illinois, we have cousins and family all over,” Karen said. “This will allow people from all over to contribute to the cause.”
In addition, Amanda and Stacy have reached out to local businesses for contributions for an auction planned for 6 p.m. April 26 at the Celebration Center, and response has been quite positive.
“I’ve had criers who know the family,” Amanda said. “I’ve shared tears with a couple of them who I had never even met who know the family.”
As donations come in and support grows each day, the scope of the event may expand to include a dinner. Amanda encourages those interested in helping the family to check out the Facebook event page she launched called “Benefit auction for Karen Lamb (Anstine)” (facebook.com/events/288129981340496/) to keep up as it evolves. Those wanting to donate auction items can call her at 660-473-1488.
Karen’s fighting spirit inspired another outreach effort. Whitney Cromley, who is Madison’s godmother, is selling T-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with the rallying phrase “Fight Like A Mom.”
“That came from a blog that I wrote … the day that she got the first diagnosis,” Whitney said. “In it, I wrote that the term shouldn’t be ‘Fight Like A Girl,’ it should be ‘Fight Like A Mom’ because Karen will fight like she is the mother of three children who need her, and there is nothing more powerful than fighting for your children – no better motivation and no bigger drive.”
Commenters said if she put that on a hoodie, they would buy it. So far, more than $3,000 worth of T-shirts and hoodies have been sold. Specialty Sportswear, of Sedalia, is handling production, and those interested in making a purchase can find the information on the auction Facebook page; orders are due March 5.
Karen and her family are going to try to move back to Sedalia the last week of March, and will likely stay with Chris’ parents until they find a place of their own. Madison will return to Smith-Cotton Junior High and Erika will go back to Heber Hunt Elementary.
“The teachers (at Heber Hunt) have been fantastic; they have been very supportive of me and looking forward to getting Erika back,” Karen said.
To facilitate the move, Chris, who works for Sears, had to step down from his position as director of sales and marketing for the company’s outlet division. He now will be a district manager with a lot of travel required.
“It was a sacrifice we had to make in order to get back home,” Karen said.
She has been moved by the sacrifices and support from the Sedalia community to help her come home.
“I can’t even tell you the amount of support and love that I have been given in this time. It has just been amazing,” she said. “The amount of love and support has just been overwhelming and it has filled my heart. My heart is overflowing with it.”