Karen Sock isn’t known for staying stagnant. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and has lived in Napa, San Francisco, Chicago (where she met her husband Frederick), New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. She and Frederick are proud parents of one adult daughter, Kristan.
She has been a pioneer in hospitality and gaming, distinguished as the nation’s first African American female to lead the daily operations of a full-service casino for a major gaming company in 1997. Karen is President and CEO of Sock Enterprises, Inc., a project management and consulting business. She is also the co-founder and developer of Pathways2Possibilities:P2P. P2P is a unique hands-on, interactive career exploration experience, designed to expose 8th graders and older opportunity youth ages 16-24 years old to the many career options available to them.
A shocking diagnosis
In the Fall of 2010, Karen was taking a shower and felt a small lump under her right breast. She made two mammogram appointments but cancelled both due to her demanding schedule. “It was just before Christmas, and my husband told me to make my appointment. I had my mammogram, and afterward, the tech had a funny look on her face. The doctor came into the room, showed me the scan, and there was a small, unusual shape on the screen.”
From there, Karen was referred to a local surgery center for removal. The surgeon removed the tissue, and the next day, Karen received a call from her physician to tell her that the tissue included breast cancer. She was officially diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in December of 2010.
She followed up with her oncologist for full scans, a biopsy and additional testing. Due to her type of cancer, it was recommended she have targeted radiation treatments. “I had the 33 radiation treatments, simultaneously working and opening up a small business. In July 2014, we were hosting our first family reunion for my husband. We went to a store and I slipped on the floor, hurting my shoulder. I was a little sore but didn’t think anything of it.”
Karen then went from July 2014 until March 2015 feeling that something was wrong, expressing her concerns to her primary care provider. “Sometimes, I was so sore I couldn’t lift my arm. From there, I had an MRI performed. The color left my doctor’s face after seeing the results, and he told me that either I had a very bad infection or that my cancer had returned.”
The reason Karen was in pain was because she had a cancerous tumor on one of her vertebrae. The breast cancer had metastasized. After six months of working with an oncology neurosurgeon, her tumor shrunk in size.
Getting the right care
Six years later, there have been no new metastases thanks to the appropriate medical treatment. “Every appointment that you go to, you need to know what your options are on the front end, what your different types of treatment are, and what the costs are. I am so grateful to have the intellectual, emotional and financial support that I have from my family. I would also like to thank my oncologist, Dr. Allison Wall. She listens to me, and she understands that I have questions and concerns about the impact of my treatment plan. She is patient and comforting, she discusses my treatment options, and she allows me to be a full partner when making decisions about my healthcare treatment plan. I am truly grateful for her skills and experience.”
Telling her story and making herself accessible have been goals for Karen, as she is passionate about education and promoting advocacy. “So many people are fearful to ask doctors questions. There is no question you shouldn’t ask. You must be your own advocate, and you must be deeply invested in the decision about your treatment plan. Everyone has a different case, and there are resources for financial need. Don’t be embarrassed to ask about these resources, because not asking these questions is life-threatening.”
Karen uses her voice to help others. She was recognized as the 2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Susan G Komen Race for the Cure Breast Cancer Survivor of the Year. She served as the 2017 Mississippi Gulf Coast Susan G Komen Race for the Cure Honorary Co-Chair. She previously served on the Susan G Komen National Metastatic Breast Cancer Advisory Board, and she is Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Susan G. Komen Memphis-Mid South Mississippi Affiliate. Karen is involved in numerous other committees and boards, finding time to give back despite her stacked schedule.
Prevention Takes Action
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. The average risk of a woman in the U.S. developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer. This also means there is a 7 in 8 chance she will never have the disease (98% survival rate if detected early). Women with an average risk of breast cancer should start annual screening mammograms at age 40. Women with a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer should start annual screening mammograms at an earlier age and should be offered additional imaging each year. Memorial offers discounts for mammograms and bone density scans. Click the button below to learn more.