Karen Higgasson is a mom who is always on the go. The mother of four girls is not only a soccer mom, but also a coach for the Hinesville Gators.
She successfully mentored and coached her two older girls Kelsey and Megan through their soccer careers. She is an avid runner who has participated in several 5K races with her husband, Rusty, and two youngest daughters, Macey and Kadyn.
She is the typical busy housewife who still manages to find time to exercise on a routine basis.
She is busy, active and up until January completely healthy.
“It was like there is no way….you have to be kidding me,” Higgasson said the day she found out she has stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “No one in my family…that I am aware of has had cancer. It’s very strange. It can happen to anybody.”
At first she just felt a bit run down but attributed it her non-stop schedule. Higgasson, who works for the Post Office, said the Christmas rush took its toll. Feeling sluggish she booked a couple’s massage for her and her husband in Savannah.
When the massage was over the therapist told Higgasson to go get checked out – immediately.
Within three days of the massage, Higgasson had her world turned upside down.
“Within two weeks I found out I had cancer,” she said. “Two weeks later I found out it was stage 4.”
Higgasson’s non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma is attacking her immune system via the lymph nodes. She has tumors growing in her nodes and in 20 percent of her bones.
But she is stubborn and she isn’t ready to just rest on her laurels. Instead she started reading and researching. On May 9 she had her first two chemotherapy rounds at the Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center in Jacksonville.
She also started using natural remedies to boost her immune system.
“Some people believe in it, some don’t,” she said. “I also completely cut out sugar because sugar feeds cancer. I got my white blood cell count to raise a little bit. Enough to where my immune system is a lot stronger and my blood count went up.”
Higgasson considered herself a healthy eater. Her research however, taught her to be mindful of everything we put into our bodies as fuel and nutrients.
“You don’t really realize what is in our food. There are toxins and chemicals in everything…everything that is processed…well it’s a lot for your body to wash out,” she said after reading about processed, refined and genetically modified foods.
She said the family will be taught how to cook things the old way, from scratch, just like her grandma did while she was growing up.
“I feel fine now,” she said adding she has no time for the blues.
“If you sit around in bed and start feeling sorry for yourself you are not going to get any better,” she said. “Once you get past that hurdle of getting up and going outside and getting some fresh air…I felt so much better. My advice to others would be to do whatever it is you have to do to get outside. Get some air and even if it’s just walking around your yard…get moving.”
And her focus has shifted as well.
“We have reprioritized life,” she said. “Rusty and I have a better focus. We are fixing to hit our 25th wedding anniversary and the next 25 years is going to be our big focus…with our kids.”
Jim Bacote is the longtime Director of the Geechee Kunda Cultural Center in Riceboro. Just two weeks ago Bacote was entering St. Joseph Candler Hospital in Savannah after being diagnosed with a brain tumor and stage 4 lung cancer.
He was never much of a smoker and leads an active lifestyle. But he said he wasn’t shocked when he got the news. He said he plans to handle it all with gratitude and mindfulness.
“I get my last treatment tomorrow and I am done,” Bacote said Tuesday. “I have conditioned my mind over time. I have not had one second of anxiety or grief over the whole thing. When I heard stage four lung cancer I thought well I have dogs to take care of and it’s only stage four not stage four million.”
Bacote is part of a pro-active health study at St. Joseph Candler in Savannah.
“One part deals with spirituality and the power of the mind and the power of the environment,” he said. Bacote believes negative thoughts and influences will create a negative response in his body.
“It didn’t even cross my mind as being a challenge,” he said. “What crossed my mind was whatever this was, it was already done. The power of the mind is everything. We underestimate it. People claim to have faith but they don’t because they have doubt. You can’t have both of them.”
Bacote said the physicians worked on stabilizing the growth of the brain tumor and the lung cancer. But he said the rest is up to him and regardless of what the next day brings he is ready.
“The scriptures tell us that we can’t hasten or delay our time of leaving. It is already etched in stone,” he said. This is a Hallelujah moment as opposed to woe is me. I have no pain and I still don’t have any anxiety or grief. I am not worried.”
He said former students, family and friends have all stepped up to help him run the center since his diagnoses. He added that it has allowed him to transition into what he calls the next chapter in his life – mindful relaxation.
“I’m a country Geechee gentleman now. I am comfortable and I am having the time of my life,” he said. “This isn’t a fight. How can you fight your creation? You can harmonize with it and get high results.”
This Friday the community will rally together to benefit the Liberty County Relay for Life. The event is from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. at the Liberty County Recreation Department, 607 W. Oglethorpe Highway, Hinesville.
The event is free and open to the public to attend. Teams of walkers are asked to solicit donations for the American Cancer Society. Call 912-492-6401 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.relayforlife.org/libertycountyga for more information.