You Don’t Get to Choose Which Days You Are Strong

February 20, 2018

You don’t get to choose which days you are strong.

This is Karen Campbell’s anthem.

Karen first realized this was true decades ago when her young son was diagnosed with leukemia. She learned about strength, and she learned about the power of an academic medical center.

Today, her son is busy raising 2 children of his own, and Karen is closing a chapter in her own personal healthcare journey. In recent years, Karen has personally experienced the power of an inner-connected network and academic medical center.

Karen was approaching 10-years cancer free from a successful battle with breast cancer, when a tumor was discovered in her abdomen. She swiftly had a hysterectomy, colostomy and started radiation and chemotherapy. Karen was treated for a tumor of an unknown origin in an unusual location, making her one for the medical books – a recognition you don’t necessarily want.

By March of 2015, Karen was once again cancer free, but continued to suffer from bowel obstructions. Within the same year she beat cancer, she was in the emergency department at IU Health North being treated for an obstruction, when she suffered a heart attack. While she didn’t know the doctor coming to treat her, she trusted the team at IU Health to send her the best. She had three heart catheterizations, a stent placed and learned that she had 90% blockage in her right coronary artery.


Karen is now being treated for lymphedema in her legs, a side effect of radiation. She is also working with an occupational therapist at IU Health North and a routine participant in Rock Steady Boxing to increase and maintain strength which helps with her Parkinson's Disease that she was diagnosed with before cancer.

Karen has experienced multiple physicians, interacted with hundreds of nurses, found her way to dozens of appointments and completed numerous packets of paperwork. Through it all, Karen has never wavered in her confidence in the network that is IU Health. In all of the difficult moments, she rests easy, assured that there was nothing more she could do than entrust her care to this team and follow their guidance. She never once had to share her story with a new caregiver. They had reviewed her charts, knew her healthcare story and were ready to uniquely treat her. This reassurance is priceless.

These days you may find Karen volunteering on a board , traveling, hanging out with her six grandchildren and always breaking a sweat at Rock Steady. Karen never forgets: much can be thrown at a person, and you can get through it, especially with the right team by your side.

Karen is a self-appointed cheerleader for IU Health. She is strong every, single day, and the team at IU Health is always there to spot her.

As IU Health embarks on the development of a new Adult Academic Health Center in downtown Indianapolis, the model of healthcare and how care is delivered has never been so important. The team at IU Health work hard every day to provide a system approach to individualize care so each patient knows they are in the best hands. If you’d like more information about this content or ways to give, contact IU Health Foundation at or 317.962.1777. You will find us online at

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This limb swelling occurs when the lymph nodes of the immune system are damaged due to surgery or radiation, causing a fluid buildup in the arms or legs.