A story of hope for Breast Cancer Awareness Month


Owen Rush

The pink flowers in the front yard of breast cancer survivor Karen Kruse’s house vibrantly shine as a symbol of hope for those who have passed, those who are still fighting and those who have survived breast cancer. This is Kruse’s “survivor garden.” Photo courtesy of Owen Rush.

Every October, the fall comes in with bright colors of red, orange and yellow. One color that also shines bright in October is pink, a symbol of courage and hope for most, but especially those who have been affected by breast cancer.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and pink can be seen brightly day or night at the corner of 50th and Blondo. The color is seen in many shades in breast cancer survivor Karen Kruse’s “survivor garden.” The lights shine brightly even at night around her house.

Some stories of breast cancer are sad, but this is not one of those stories.

Kruse was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 1, 2009, and she decided that day to do a double mastectomy. She also had 16 rounds of chemotherapy. Her outlook was and has always been very optimistic, saying “attitude is half the battle.”

“Why not me, I am no different from anyone else,” Kruse said.

This is just a part of her journey and her story, and the grass is greener now, “the flowers are pinker now.”

Kruse at first thought her story was only about her, but realized it only started with her. Her story is about connecting with others and sharing stories. One of the things that has helped Kruse connect with others is her survivors garden, which she started when she was diagnosed.

It started with a patch of grass where she planted pink flowers. The goal was to finish the garden a year after her last day of chemo. On July 29, 2010, a year later, she finished the garden.

“I will never forget finishing what I did and looking back on the year and knowing I was strong enough to do that,” Kruse said.

Ever since the garden has been there, she has had strangers come to her door with notes, cards and plants to connect and share their story. One of the many people and stories that she has met through her garden has since become one of her best friends, Tisa.

She came to her door and said, “You don’t know me, I don’t know you, but I have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and I drive past your house every day.”

Kruse invited her in as she explained her story, and she left not to be seen again until Kruse was at a program about diet and exercise for cancer survivors at the YMCA. Within her group was Tisa.

“Without the garden, Tisa wouldn’t have come to my door… If I wouldn’t have been there, I would not know Tisa if it was not for breast cancer,” Kruse said.

One of the new editions to her house this year is the pink lights and a sign of hope in bright pink lights. These lights went up because of COVID and like most of us, she was in the house and could not go anywhere, so she hired a crew to put up pink lights to symbolize hope.

“I think that this message is just to give people hope, regardless of the situation,” Kruse said.

If you are looking to drive by and see the pink lights, they turn on at 7 p.m. and can be seen near 50th and Blondo.

A story of hope for Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Video

A story of hope for Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Video #2