COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Just two years ago, Karen Gandarillas had the next stage of her life all planned out.
“I was going to retire at the end of last year. I was going to buy a quilting machine and I was gonna buy a Mustang,” she said.
But in February 2020, a routine screening changed the course of her life.
“In three days, I went from thinking I was perfectly healthy to breast cancer of one of the types that are most aggressive,” she said.
The life-altering diagnosis is why Gandarillas is supporting Team Karen in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in downtown Columbus on Saturday, where thousands of runners are expected to participate in the 3.1 mile race. The annual event has raised more than $30 million for local breast health programs and national breast cancer research.
Gandarillas said she has what’s called triple negative breast cancer, which has since spread to her spine and brain, affecting her ability to speak — but not her optimism.
“Anything and everything could be feeding that…and they don’t know what it is. There’s not really any drugs that are effective in fighting those two, so you just wait until a spot shows up, and we radiate,” she said with a smile.
Despite the volatility of Gandarillas’ cancer, she said she remains optimistic because she knows where her hope lies.
“I get up and I spend every morning — every morning that I can — I spend out here and I get me Jesus on!” she said. “I’m so thankful that I have another day and I ask him for another couple days, and I don’t focus too much other than that.”
The head of Team Karen is her husband Rich, who recently surprised her with a bright red Mustang — one of her dreams she thought cancer had made impossible.
“In the window, he had ‘For KJG…my initials…and I didn’t know he would bless me with such a nice car,” she said.
As much as Gandarillas loves her new mustang, she said it’s the racers in pink tomorrow that mean the most to her.
“I have a lot of cards and such that…My goodness. I just have so many friends that god has blessed me with,” she said. “All these wonderful family and friends have been pouring out there hearts to me to ‘please do everything you can. You’ve got the strength. You can do this.’ And I’m not going to let them down, and God’s not going to let me down.”