Win a quilt, fight cancerKaren Hermanson is literally “one in a million.” The Knife River resident was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer called chordoma in 2005. It has an incidence rate of one case per million people. Only 300 Americans are affected by chordoma each year.
By: Sonja Peterson , Lake County News Chronicle
Karen Hermanson is literally “one in a million.”
The Knife River resident was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer called chordoma in 2005. It has an incidence rate of one case per million people. Only 300 Americans are affected by chordoma each year. For comparison, there are 222,520 cases of lung cancer, 68,130 cases of mela-noma and 43,050 cases of leukemia in the U.S. each year.
Hermanson feels extremely fortunate to have been cancer-free for almost five years. Now, she hopes to help others with chordoma by auctioning off a quilt she made for this year’s Heritage Days festival and donating the proceeds to the Chordoma Foundation.
Because chordoma is rare, there’s little money for research and treatment. “I feel uncomfortable asking people for money, so I thought I could make a quilt and raffle it off,” Hermanson said.
Her cancer took the form of a tumor at the base of her spine. She found it because “it felt like sitting on a rock, or a marble.”
“It took a month and four doctors to find the right diagnosis,” Hermanson said. Then a team had to be assembled to perform intensive surgery to remove the tumor and three inches of her tailbone. She’s now unable to sit in one place for very long and can no longer do certain physical activities or travel easily.
“I’m the one standing in the aisle on the airplane,” Hermanson said.
Yet she still feels lucky that her tumor was at the base of her spine rather than the top, where removal can harm motor functions. Her tumor was low enough and small enough that it didn’t interrupt lower nerves.
She also feels blessed because of the support her community has given her. She credits her family and church for helping her through, as well as staff at the Minnehaha Elementary in Two Harbors, where she was teaching when she had her surgery. “Cindy Ortman created a 24-hour prayer vigil the day of my surgery,” Hermanson said. “It was very humbling and comforting to know that so many people cared about my welfare and took the time to pray for me.”
Quilt for a cause
Karen Hermanson has been quilting for 10 years and she started quilting as soon as she could after her surgery. She had to put her sewing machine on an ironing board because it was too painful to sit down.
“I’ve made quilts for everyone in my family but myself,” she said. She’s also donated quilts to fund-raisers at her church and North Shore Horizons.
The quilt she is raffling off is a 72-inch square with an elegant flowered pattern and decorative machine stitching. Log Cabin Quilting donated time to do the machine stitching. She’ll sell raffle tickets for $1 each in Thomas Owens Park Friday and Saturday and then draw the winning ticket at 5 p.m. Saturday.