On a crusade since 2012, Millington Police Department dispatcher Karen Craig is on the front line on bringing awareness about breast cancer.
A survivor for five years, Craig is the voice, champion and inspiration for those affected by the disease in Flag City. Back in October 2012, Craig was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she looked to battle the disease in a personal way.
“Oh wow, it was just awful,” Craig reflected of her initial diagnosis. “My first thought was, ‘I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to give up.’ I just want to keep living.
“My mother (Jane) was diagnosed with lung cancer back in July 2000,” she continued. “She took chemo for a little bit. And the doctor told her it wasn’t working. It wasn’t doing anything. It was killing her quicker. It seemed like when she got that diagnosis, she lost her will to live and she gave up. I was determined I wasn’t going to give up. I was going to keep going.”
Craig realized quickly if she was going to survive breast cancer, she needed support. To the rescue were people like MPD Officer Michael Jordan.
“My game plan was to look forward and never look back,” Craig said. “I was determined I was going to never miss work. I wasn’t going to be sick. I was going to be here. I was going to be a survivor.
“And I never missed work and I was never sick one time,” she added. “I did gain 50 pounds from the steroids that they gave me. I still take a pill now daily. I’ve been taking it for 5 years. Jordan was the first one to know. He held a benefit for me. It was firemen vs. policemen.”
Jordan found local help to organize a charity softball game back in 2012 to benefit his friend. The game has become a tradition with Jordan taking on a cause each year, but it all started to benefit Ms. Karen.
“It was all of Shelby County pretty much,” Jordan said. “We had Bartlett, Germantown that showed up. That day Greg and I collected more than $3,000. Greg and I gave her everything. We tried to take care of Karen.”
Craig said the turnout at the benefit inspired her during the early stages of her fight.
“I was honored that people would even think anything about me to reach out and help me,” she said. “It was so heartwarming. It gave me even more reason to fight.”
Craig took the chemo and radiation to beat the disease. Meanwhile people continued to show her support like Ana Swanson selling Boston butts to collect money for her medical expenses.
Craig’s hairdresser Darrbe Oakes made her a special wig of human hair. All the support and treatments led to Craig being cancer free by June 2013.
“Oh wow, it was just a big relief to me,” she recalled. “Just the fact I did beat it. I was free. I would become an inspiration for other victims fighting breast cancer. And it was a tribute to my Mom. Everybody reached out and showed me a lot of love at that time.”
Now Craig is giving that love and support back. In addition, Craig brings her experience of survival and knowledge of the disease to those who face the challenge.
“Why am I on the front line? I want to be an inspiration to them,” Craig said. “I want to give them hope. I want to be a rock for them.
“I am an only child,” she continued. “Therefore I have a small family. In my close-knit family, of course my mother was gone when I went through it. I don’t think I had that emotional support. I’m trying to offer that emotional support and compassion for maybe somebody who hasn’t been through it.”
Earning the nickname “Captain Craig” for her dedication to bringing awareness and passionate support of her peers, Craig said she will continue the fight.
“Absolutely, I’m going to do anything I can to spread the awareness and give support to anybody I possibly can,” she concluded. “If there was a way I could cure it, I certain would.”