My 2nd Act featured essay – Karen Gibson’s “It Ain’t Over Til the Fat Lady Sings”

In June of 2005 I was sucker punched with the devastating news that I had a 13 cm mass on my left kidney that was most likely malignant. I say sucker punched because I had


In June of 2005 I was sucker punched with the devastating news that I had a 13 cm mass on my left kidney that was most likely malignant. I say sucker punched because I had no symptoms, and in fact. I felt great. My family and I were headed to the Florida Keys for a vacation of boating, snorkeling and just plain fun in the sun. It all seemed surreal like someone had tapped me on the shoulder right in the middle of a party and said” you have to leave.” How could this be? I felt fine and I am only 45. Surely they had the wrong person.

This all happened after going to my annual gynecological exam, which yes, I had put off for a few months, a hard lump was noticed on the left side of my abdomen. Thank God my gynecologist ordered an ultrasound, because if not and my type of cancer (renal cell carcinoma) was given more time to spread, I don’t think I would be here now. Lessons learned: take care of yourself, go to your check-ups, and get second opinions ask questions. In other words, take charge of your health and be a partner with you doctor.

My journey is that I had a radical nephrectomy, I’ve had three major surgeries but no chemo or radiation because it is not effective with kidney cancer. I know some people may say thank goodness you did not have to endure that type of treatment, but there are times that I wish there was something I could do to help fight this cancer from recurring. Lesson learned: everyone with cancer is related although treatments are not all the same and that we must all join together to fight for early screenings, better treatments, and insurance coverage no matter what type of cancer. Once a screening and cure is found for one cancer, then it will begin to trickle down to other types of cancer. I can’t believe that having cancer was what it took for me to open my eyes to the beauty of friends, family and strangers. Lesson learned: Don’t wait until a tragedy hits to truly know the preciousness of what life is all about. How unfortunate that it took the reality of dying way too early for me to see things in a different light.

I am trying to use my journey with cancer by sharing my experience by becoming a co-chair for patient support with the Judy Nicholson Foundation for kidney cancer in Jacksonville, Florida. I encourage all survivors to share their story because there may be someone out there that is newly diagnosed that is just starting their journey. By sharing your experience, you can mentor a new survivor by offering hope! Let them know that being diagnosed with the “big C” is not always a death sentence and that fearless courage is the foundation to victory.



Cindy Chafin
Cindy Chafin, M.Ed., MCHES® serves as editor-in-chief of Unconditionally Her. Through her many years as a masters-level certified health educator and 18-year employment in a higher education setting – as well as several years as a graduate and doctoral student – she has written countless articles, essays, publications, grant applications, proposals, reports, and other technical and creative writing documents. In addition to her training and professional work experience, she spent four years as volunteer editor of New Focus Daily, a publication of the Women Survivors Alliance, a national women cancer survivors-focused organization based in Nashville, Tennessee.
While serving as editor of Unconditionally Her, a women-focused magazine which provides content on anything from recipes, travel, books, and everything in between, she has a special interest in fitness, health, and well-being. She is certified by the National Commission on Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) and was part of the first cohort to receive master's level designation. NCHEC certifies health education specialists, promotes professional development, and strengthens professional preparation and practice. She is proud to be a CHES® and has been a public health professional for many years after receiving her graduate degree in health promotion and education from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She was a personal trainer and group fitness instructor for many years and looks forward to re-engaging with women one-on-one as a health coach pending completion of her certification and doctoral degree to supplement her public health and academic work.

She currently is the Associate Director for Community Programs for the Center for Health and Human Services at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, located just outside of Nashville, where she has been a project director of multiple grants since 2002 and served as interim director from 2015-2018. Cindy offers her consulting services and volunteer hours under the umbrella of Community Health Collaboratives, LLC which she founded in 2002 for organizations such as Unconditionally Her and other non-profit and charity organizations. She is pleased to promote empowerment and confidence of women readers across the globe, and to provide inspiration, motivation, and voice for social change through her role as editor-in-chief of Unconditionally Her.

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