Cancer Patient Wears Different Costume For Every Chemo Session: 'I Have Laughed Big Happy Laughs'
All the world's a stage for this New York actress — and that includes her hospital room.
Karen Walsh, who's battling Stage IV cancer, has found a unique way to beat the blues while undergoing chemotherapy: doing it all while dressed in character.
The 40-year-old mother of two has dressed as Wonder Woman, Rocky, Forrest Gump and Rosie the Riveter while undergoing infusions. Even the staff at New York's Presbyterian hospital take part, she told InsideEdition.com.
"It has helped me in so many ways," she said. "I don't feel alone. I feel a whole lot less scared than I might have."
She was diagnosed with cancer last September after suffering from what she called a "random cramp in my side." "Nothing particularly unusual," she said, "except that it lasted a few hours too long." So she decided to go to the hospital.
After an ultrasound and an MRI, doctors told her she had cancer that had spread from her colon to her liver and lymph nodes. She started chemotherapy immediately.
With so many hospital visits — 22 rounds of chemo in total — and her time squeezed between work and family, Walsh decided to invite her friends to treatments.
"I wasn't getting a chance to see many people," she recalled. "So it started as a social breakfast with friends, and I would take a photo at some point to document the experience."
It was during her fifth round of chemo that a friend suggested they get a little more creative with their photo, "which is how I ended up balancing on a window ledge with some curtains wrapped around my leg," she said.
Next came a perfect recreation of The Breakfast Club movie poster, a St Patrick's Day-themed shoot and light sabers. As for a favorite, Walsh struggles to choose.
"Honestly, I have enjoyed every single one of them," she said. "I have laughed big happy laughs during every treatment. I'm grateful for that."
Round 10, sincerely The Breakfast Club. With love and thanks to pals and some castmates from #machinal #broadway #roundabouttheatre #ryandinning, #rebeccahall, #arnieburton, and #scottdrummond #thebreakfastclub @americancancersociety @fightcrc @su2c @rtc_nyc #LifeAfterDiagnosis #coloncancer #mollyringwald #broadwaycommunity
She's provided other cancer sufferers some big laughs too. Almost every day, people contact her to say that they admire her photos and courage.
"I got one letter from a girl with the same diagnosis as me... She said she was feeling a bit hopeless and that my photo that week had energized her to fight on and go to her next treatment," she said. "It meant a lot to hear that. I'm doing this as my own coping mechanism, but it's really lovely to know that other people are enjoying the photos and getting something out of them."
She's also using the new attention to make sure other people take care of their health. She's an ambassador spokesperson for the American Cancer Society's 80by2018 campaign, which aims to ensure 80 percent of people who should be getting screened actually do.
As for her own health, Walsh says it's "maintaining." Her tumors are inoperable, but the treatments have shrunk them by about 50 percent. Her colon tumor is no longer visible on a CT scan.
"I'm lucky in that I'm able to go about my regular day to day life," she said. "So it's actually quite easy to forget I have cancer, most of the time."
Of course, her photos remind her of her hospital visits — but they're good memories.
"I love documenting something like this for my family and friends," she told InsideEdition.com. "I feel energized... I really think I get a lot out of it, when it comes to mind over matter!"
Check out her Instagram page for more hilarious photos.