Living the full cancer experience with compassion, grace and skill

By: Stephanie Chisolm, PhD

I first met Karen Sachse at the inaugural Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) Summit for Patients and Families in 2016. She sat at a table of patient advocates with her husband, Roger.

Karen had been diagnosed with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer a few years earlier. She attributed her illness to eight years of handling bags of chemotherapy chemicals as a clinical nurse specialist at Children’s National Hospital. In theory, this could have made sense because exposure to chemicals is a risk factor.

However, Roger had also been diagnosed with bladder cancer. This was a diagnosis of muscle invasion. He endured the standard of care and Karen helped him recover from bladder removal surgery. Unfortunately, bladder cancer claimed Roger’s life a few years later, but not before immersing Karen in the full spectrum of experiences associated with bladder cancer, the sixth most common cancer in America.

In addition to her professional work in oncology as a Nurse Educator for Servier Pharmaceuticals and Senior Clinical Nurse Educator at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, Karen has used her personal experience as a patient and caregiver to fully engage as a BCAN volunteer. Karen works tirelessly to help improve the lives of bladder cancer patients and caregivers. She brings her professional, as well as personal, education and experience to research advocacy.

Karen is involved in patient-reported outcome studies and is an advisor for the CISTO award funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Karen has shared her patient and caregiver experiences publicly with BCAN’s clinical and research community as a speaker at our 2019 Bladder Cancer Think Tank and also served as a patient advocate on the BCAN committee. planning for this preeminent meeting on bladder cancer research.

As an oncology nurse navigator at Inova Health Systems in Virginia, Karen works tirelessly with BCAN and the team at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute to ensure bladder cancer patients benefit from programs. , materials, care and support they need throughout their bladder cancer journey. .

Karen is an extraordinary and compassionate healer, both professionally and personally. She really knows what it’s like to have bladder cancer and how to care for someone with bladder cancer. She knows how to treat and support cancer patients and families, and that’s amazing, to say the least.

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