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From climbing mountains to fighting cancer: Karen’s inspiring attitude carries her through

Karen Simpson’s get’er done attitude has gotten her through difficult climbs, daunting marathons, epic bike rides and even a cancer diagnosis.

“I just have that mantra in my head all the time,” says Karen, a Toronto Diversity Manager and mother to four. As Karen was approaching her 50th birthday in 2012 she wanted to adopt a healthier lifestyle and set her sights on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

The challenging and exhilarating experience changed her life and inspired her to climb even more mountains and take up everything from running and cycling to weight lifting.

“The best compliment I can get is inspiring somebody else to take on whatever it is they might want to do.”

In 2015, Karen faced a different kind of mountain to climb when she was diagnosed with two types of skin cancer – a basal cell tumour on her temple and a squamous cell tumour on her chest.

Karen had a micro surgery that completely removed the basal cell cancer and has been treating the squamous cell cancer with a chemotherapy cream every winter for the past four years.

Prior to her own diagnosis, Karen’s partner was also diagnosed with bladder cancer, but it didn’t stop the pair from climbing Mount Rinjani in Indonesia just four weeks after his surgery. She’s also had several other close family members touched by cancer and lost her mom to colon cancer in 2018.

Even though Karen wasn’t treated at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, she knows proceeds from the Home Lottery have helped patients like her and her family.

“There’s no doubt in my mind, 100 per cent that we all benefit from the world-leading research being done there.”