A person holding sparkler in front of blurry lights.

Two Decades and Counting . . .

I did it! I made it twenty whole years this month being cancer-free. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure it would happen. I wasn’t even sure ten years would happen. But here I am!

January 31, 2003, marks the day of my revelatory diagnosis. I worked in the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I couldn’t help but wonder if I should retire as soon as I was eligible, just in case my cancer came back. I didn’t want to be deprived of experiencing the joy of retirement, at least for a little while. As the years rolled by, however, I decided against it, so I worked another seven years beyond my eligibility. I’m glad I did. I have loved every minute of retirement though my days are full.

A Dream Fulfilled

I remember hearing cancer survivors boast of their 10, 15, and 20 years of being cancer-free. At the time, I felt it was an unobtainable goal for me. I longed for the day when I could say I was a survivor of 20 years. But could that ever really happen to me? Yes, oh yes! This God-given milestone is most definitely categorized as an unexpected blessing.

I don’t think about cancer like I used to. For a long time, it weighed heavy on my mind. Those twenty years seem a distant past now, though my scars will never allow me to forget. Nevertheless, some memories can come crashing back, allowing me to recall vivid details.

Where has the time gone?

During those 20 years, I wrote and published my Confronting Cancer with Faith Bible study. It was a challenge and a blessing. I’ve also contributed short stories to numerous Christian books, written dozens of devotionals, magazine and newspaper articles, spoken to churches, clubs, and organizations, and dived into blogging. I created a ministry website (http://ewerblessed.com) and re-created my book website (http://confrontingcancerwithfaith.com). I endured the abandonment of my publishing company and republished my book with an abundance of sweat and tears.

While still working, I became an organist during those years, often practicing late at night in the lonely sanctuary. I was a substitute before but decided what the heck after I kept substituting following the retirement of our church organist. It’s work, but I love it. I love praising God through music.

I’ve traveled extensively during those 20 years: Peru, Galapagos, Dominican Republic, Norway, Honduras, India, Moldova, Greece, all over the U.S., and more. Some of my travels have been for pleasure, but a lot have been for missions. My heart yearns for the lost in this world.

Lingering Effects

Fifteen years following my diagnosis, I suffered a heart attack. I’ll never know if it was a result of the radiation I received as part of my cancer treatment. Nonetheless, it enters my mind.

I seriously think I developed chemo-brain that lasted much longer than it does for most. Forgetfulness plagues me. I am not convinced I don’t have lingering effects even now.

For years, I dealt with dental issues following my cancer diagnosis. The cancer treatment did a number on my teeth. I never, I mean, never had any major dental problems before I got cancer. Then all of a sudden, I was dealing with root canals and crowns on a routine basis. One tooth had a root canal twice! Another had a persistent low-grade infection until it finally had to be pulled. I’m so glad my dental issues have subsided, but it has taken years.

I blame chemo for my loss of strength and stamina. I noticed my decreased stamina when hiking with my husband and dogs. I would huff and puff with little effort. That hasn’t gotten much better, but now I can factor in age as a cause.   

A few years after my cancer, I started taking a preventive drug that caused cumulative joint pain unbeknownst to me. Over time, it became a real issue, causing me to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger thumbs, elbow tendonitis, hip/knee pain, and muscular soreness in my hand. I was starting to feel like an old lady and thought I would have to live with it. Thank goodness my piano playing was not significantly impacted. I finally realized what was happening and quit taking the drug. Everything started to improve.

Recognizing the Blessings

“Now I want you to know brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel†(Phil 1:12). Oh yeah, it has! God granted my request to use my cancer to bring Him glory from the get-go. He has done that through my writing, speaking, singing, playing, and relationships. I’ll never forget the testimony I gave in Manipur, India, in front of 1,000 people. I still occasionally receive encouraging words from all around the country and beyond. Yes, my cancer has progressed the gospel in exciting ways. He increased my faith in the process. Hallelujah!

Twenty years is a long time to wait, but God blesses those who wait. I am indeed blessed. Thank you for sharing in my celebration.

My Thanksgiving altar in 2003

Karen Allen


  1. Sharon Atwood on January 20, 2023 at 10:12 am

    It brings a tear to my eye to celebrate this anniversary. I’m so happy for this blessing. You expressed it so well the path you have taken.

    • Karen Allen on January 20, 2023 at 9:36 pm

      And you supported me through it all!

  2. Elaine Mizzell on January 20, 2023 at 10:36 am

    Congratulations on reaching this milestone!! Now let’s prepare to count on many, many more!!! ❤️❤️

    • Karen Allen on January 20, 2023 at 9:38 pm

      Yes, I’ll take another 20 years! Not sure about 100! Thanks for commenting.

  3. J.D. Wininger on January 20, 2023 at 8:24 pm

    While I thank God for preserving you so that I could meet such a wonderful and encouraging writing friend, I can’t help but sit here and wonder. I wonder who else God has blessed through you in these past 20 years? Who will God bless through you in the next 20 years? Then, I smile as I remember that we have eternity to enjoy each other’s fellowship as we worship and rejoice in God’s presence. See you there sweet friend. God’s blessings.

    • Karen Allen on January 20, 2023 at 9:46 pm

      You made me smile, too, J.D. Your questions are worthy of thought. I still pray God would use my book to reach out to those in crisis. He said He would bless it, and I believe it. Funny how you mention heavenly fellowship. In one of the devotions I just wrote, I came across a few statements about how important our relationships are because we will extend them into eternity. That is, being around other people. I will finally get to meet you! Something else to look forward to.

  4. Then Sem on January 25, 2023 at 2:59 pm

    I have gone thru your two-decade journey, I am blessed and thank God for his mercy upon you. I am also encouraged by your smiling faces on all your travel. God bless you.

    • Karen Allen on January 25, 2023 at 3:02 pm

      Thank you for your comment. It’s been a long road but well-traveled with God by my side every step of the way.

  5. Ray Randal on January 29, 2023 at 8:56 pm

    I’m not sure you remember me, but I am the Director of Pastoral Care at UAB Medical West in Bessemer. You spoke at our cancer support group some years ago. Since that time I have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, which no longer seems to be an issue. I more recently was diagnosed with renal cell cancer, had surgery to remove the left kidney, discovered to have more tumors a few months later and have been in treatments ever since. The latest news is that it has spread to my liver.

    I feel fine and am following through with treatments. I appreciate your encouragement and celebrate your 20-year milestone. I look forward to a milestone of my own.

    • Karen Allen on January 29, 2023 at 8:58 pm

      Of course, I remember you and my invitation to your facility. It was a joy to meet with you and to share about my experience. I’m so sorry to hear of your cancer ordeal. You have had quite the journey – much more extensive than mine. I am glad to hear that you are feeling well and are continuing with treatment. As you know, as do all cancer survivors, every day of life is a victory. The life God gives to each of us is so short in comparison to our eternal home. It is up to us to be thankful for our chance to honor Him, praise Him, and glorify His name while we tread this sod. We are not given one extra day for oversights and re-do’s and not one less for lack of preparation. What an amazing testimony you have right this very minute to bring hope to each person you encounter. May the Lord use your hope through His strength to penetrate the darkness into somebody’s world. I pray for His wisdom to be gifted to you in showing you how best to use your cancer for something good.

      So good to hear from you, Randal. Thank you for reading my blog.

Leave a Comment

Follow This Blog

Ewe R Blessed Ministries / Karen O. Allen

A woman with short hair is smiling for the camera.