People We Help | Karen

In her 30-plus years of working at least one full-time job, Karen Krshul, 53, had never taken a sick day in her life. That is, until just a little more than a year ago when she missed only 10 days. Yes, only, as she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent bilateral mastectomy surgery.


What Karen had once done – simply attend American Cancer Society fundraising events to support a friend – changed.

Since her diagnosis and surgery, Karen’s been personally involved with friends and other people who have cancer “I’m very open about what has happened to me,” Karen said in a recent interview.

Mostly recovered from her surgery, she now speaks on behalf of the High Plains Division of the American Cancer Society, which has been a United Way partner agency since 1986.

“You don’t realize how many people are out there going through the same thing,” Karen said.

She is also involved with United Way for the second time. Today, as she did years ago, Karen volunteers for an allocations panel. The people on these panels decide how to divvy up – or allocate – the money from United Way’s fundraising campaign to the 170-plus agencies it supports. Karen had family friends who had been helped through United Way partner agencies and she realized the importance of this process. She has also started recruiting donations for United Way from employees at her second full-time job at St. Alexius Hospital.

“I was ready to get more involved,” said Karen.

One might think finding the time to be involved may seem tricky for this put-together woman (on this day her pink lipstick matches the pink in her scarf, and her scarf ties in the grey tones in her outfit). But she does find the time, somehow.

She currently works two full-time jobs (as a secretary with the IBEW and a registration representative in the ER at St. Alexius Hospital), and still finds time to volunteer. And that’s the short list.

She wasn’t always this busy. She was busier. At times, she had upwards of four part-time jobs and on weekends was the only woman on a local drag racing team’s eight-person pit crew.

She thinks her bout with cancer has slowed her down a bit. But her devotion to her jobs, her friends and her community keeps her going.

Even though she’ll tell you she isn’t a leader and that she “likes to make sure everyone else looks good,” Karen will be that person in the room you pay attention to, for good reason. She’s smart, quick and determined.

“Attitude is everything,” Karen said. And when you meet her, you’ll know that her upbeat outlook on life is what makes her a survivor and someone you want in your corner.

Want to receive more stories like this?