Susan G. Komen Central Indiana Ambassador Carin Henderson
Writer / Cathy Wendorff
Photographer / Marc Sirkin
Carin Henderson, 2016 Ambassador for the Komen of Central Indiana Organization, has a winning smile after defeating breast cancer with her army of family and friends. During her five surgeries and five-year battle, she armed herself with a strong faith, sense of humor and determination that inspires others.
Carin lives in Greenwood with her two sons, works two jobs, spent eight years as a member of the Army National Guard and is proud to be an “Ultimate Mom.” Her favorite pastime is cheering for Conner, a senior, and Alex, a junior, at their Center Grove Ultimate Frisbee games. Unknowingly, her boys inspired her to keep fighting, to get out of bed each morning and to attack her many medical complications with a positive attitude.
Her enemy first showed itself in December 2010 when she discovered a mass in her right breast. However, it was disregarded through negative scans. Her orders were to wait six months, but by February 8, Carin could no longer deny the invasion she was enduring. Listening to her intuition, she began her seven-hour standoff to have another mammogram that revealed a hostile intruder.
Looking back, Carin described being the last patient as a blessing because Dr. Lottich jumped into immediate action. On the spot, she had an ultrasound and biopsy and then a PET scan two days later. It took only eight days to get back her diagnosis of invasive ductal stage 2 grade 2 ER/PR positive and HER negative breast cancer. Swiftly, her doctor developed a treatment strategy that would include a double mastectomy, six months of chemotherapy, hysterectomy and reconstructive breast surgery. At first, the news was shocking and hard to process, but Carin quickly developed her battle cry, “Let’s kick some cancer butt!”
On March 24, just before she was set to undergo her first surgery, she posted on Facebook, “As I face tomorrow with my head held high and my fears buried deep, I remember all the family and friends that have been here with me and I am truly blessed…xoxoxoxoxo.” Remarkably, on April 16 with the “Carin’s Army” assembled, they marched at her first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
Using humor to overcome an annoying obstacle, Carin and her friend decorated one of her drains by drawing a face on it, adding hair, naming her Flo and posting a picture on Facebook. While suffering through chemotherapy, her standing joke was, “I will take throwing up instead of mouth sores, if only we could pick and choose.”
Carin’s “you have to do what you have to do” attitude, no matter how exhausted she felt, contributed to her successfully conquering breast cancer after six rounds of chemotherapy and 53 herceptin treatments. She tried to find the humor in the way that her hair grew back since it came in straight, gray and had a wiry texture instead of her original curls.
Forever changed by cancer and still trying to make sense of it all, Carin found herself in a place she never expected. When the doctor appointments and treatments ended, she hit rock bottom, feeling lost and broken. She was “surprised how long it takes to come out of the fog from chemo” and said “it took two to three years to begin the healing process.”
Carin sends many thanks to everyone who helped her because she couldn’t have prevailed without her large support group. From rides for her kids to encouraging words, her troop supplied stability, empowering her to fight to see her boys grow up. Just to mention a few, her friend Ann Marie Bowling just always knew when Carin was not strong enough to go by herself, and she physically took her to the store many times. Another friend, Michelle Hadley, acted as her advocate, dealing with doctor appointments and her insurance coverage.
As an Ambassador for the Komen of Central Indiana organization, Carin would “love to be the voice or advocate for people going through breast cancer who need a voice.” Amazingly, she now feels blessed beyond cancer and would advise someone newly diagnosed to be willing to ask for help, gather a support group and maybe even get a second opinion. In hindsight, if she had it to do over again, she would take her time to find her voice when making medical decisions.
Lastly, Carin enjoys wearing T-shirts that convey her courageous journey in a humorous way. If she could design her own, it would say, “Have you checked your boobs lately?”