For as long as Karen Newman can remember, she has been fighting cancer. Her parents hosted swim-athons to raise money for cancer research while she was growing up in Denver. She wrote her master's thesis on experimental treatments for the disease. A resident of Greenwich for almost 20 years now, Karen, 49, continued to swim to raise money for cancer research, participating in the first Greenwich/Stamford Swim Across America in 2007.
Just a few months after the Swim event, Karen, a mother of three boys, got the shocking news that she had been diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer, meaning the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
"I was pretty much the last person you would ever pick to get cancer," Karen said. "I have my master's in clinical nutrition. I'm a registered dietician. I'm a five-time All-American tri-athlete. If it can hit me ... it can hit anybody."
Karen refused to let the disease affect her livelihood. She will compete in her fourth straight Greenwich/Stamford SAA event on Saturday, despite still undergoing maintenance chemotherapy treatments. She says the support of family, friends, and fellow swimmers, inspires her to keep fighting cancer and to keep swimming.
"My motto is never give up your dreams," Karen said. "And don't let anybody else tell you that you can't do something because that's really up to God and your will and the love and support of other people."
The cause of Swim Across America is understandably more important now than ever to Karen. The Greenwich/Stamford SAA raises money for the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, an organization that specializes in innovative and cutting edge treatments for cancer.
Karen's incredible athletic drive goes beyond just Swim Across America. She also placed third in her age division at the Pat Griskus Triathlon on June 19 and qualified for the National Triathlon Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this September.
"I just feel blessed to be here," Karen said. "You look at all these challenges I've had in life, and then you look at how many times I've been blessed. I really wouldn't change my path in life because this cancer has helped me to help others."
Karen and the other Swim Across America participants hit the water at Tod's Point in Greenwich at 8 a.m. on Saturday.