An inspiring and remarkable woman has used her battles with cancer as a way to help others.

I first saw Karin when she walked into a Fashion Fundraiser I was attending in Rotorua about a month ago. She was wearing this gorgeous white dress and just radiated glamour. Throughout the evening I was trying to rack my brain about Karin, I knew I had seen her somewhere, on TV, or in magazines perhaps. It wasn’t until I got home and did a bit of research that I discovered what an inspiring person Karin is. She has an amazing story to share that can help so many in their hour of need and teach us all a thing or two about living and leading a happy life.

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You are such as inspiring person who has achieved a lot during your life. What are your top 3 achievements that you are most proud of?
Thank you.
1) Being alive and waking up most days with gratitude.
2) Being a mother despite being told that because I had breast cancer treatment I might not be able to have children. Not only did I have three children I actually managed to breast feed them all from my left breast. In 1999 I had to remove part of my right breast because of the diagnosis.
3) Establishing Paddle For Hope and helping people out of my own experience with cancer.

I would add that I am really proud to have managed to create my own family away from my core family and build a life full of meaning here in NZ. I thank the community, Manu and my family for supporting my journey and grateful to the universe for the challenging opportunities.

When you were just 26 years old, you were diagnosed with breast cancer, that is young. How did you find out? Did you go in to the doctors for a routine check, did you feel a lump, or were you feeling unwell?

I was quite an unusual story for that time. It was in 1999 and I remember that clearly. I felt a lump in my right breast, it was sore and it felt like an infection. I was pushed by two girlfriends to go and see a doctor. I had no idea at that time what was going to be revealed and I only had my dad and big sister to rely on. My brother was too young to comprehend and my mum passed away from a heart attack a year earlier.

How has breast cancer changed your life?
It made me believe that I need to be here and that life is so precious. It made me learn more about nutrition, exercise and it made me meet so many wonderful people. I am so grateful to be alive and do what I love, be here for my children and family. I learned a lot about my strength and about compassion and how important it is to nurture who we love and care for. I learned to be selfish at times but Not to be selfish most of the time and that you never know who stands in front of you and what journey that person has gone through. Breast cancer opened the door to a whole new world. To a world of pain and smiles, to a world of sick and healthy. Today I know that I have been commissioned by the universe to tell my story, if through Paddle For Hope or through other things I do. It changed my children lives when I was diagnosed 3 years ago for the second time and the way we all in this family see our existence. It doesn’t mean I still don’t cry about silly things, or have breakdowns every now and then but I pick myself up quickly and remind myself how I operated while being unwell. Just that reminder and looking at old photos of being bald or sick, is a good way to reflect and to kick myself in the butt when I need to (pardon my French).

Where are you currently at on your road to recovery?
I need to have my breast reconstruction performed from scratch as my right breast is not healing properly. I have taken a new surgeon on board and decided to revisit the reconstruction. I am happy that there is an opportunity to do a better job and looking forward to completing the journey in about a years time. I am carrying scars on my breasts which remind me every day who I am and what my purpose is. I have to reconstruct not just breasts but build myself again. This takes time. Healing the body mentally and physically is a process, however with all the amazing things that are happening in my life, I am grateful! Needless to say that I have been paddle boarding all along my cancer joinery and without the support of my community and family I would have found it more challenging.

You are such a positive person, what’s your secret?
There are no secrets. We make it happen by thinking in a certain way. Our thoughts drive us to a certain direction. We can change them and we can decide how to think. It is so easy to think negative and dig a black hole. I think I am compassionate in my nature and it gives me the opportunity to forgive and move forward. I can get upset at times but than I remind myself that people (I am referring to myself as well) go through so much in life. So be compassionate to yourself and others. It will help you judge less and live more at peace with yourself and others. Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments and I can loose it but the strength comes from the fact that I can lift myself, even if it’s after an hour or two, or a day. I have the tools, I learned them. I share my pain if it exists to be able to stumble upon it and move on. Who wants to be negative and see things negatively? Doesn’t make sense. Smile as much as possible even if you have to make yourself do it and practice in front of the mirror. Look at the photos on your phone that reminds you of beautiful moments, you will reflect and shift the way you think. I base my positivity on gratitude to being alive. Even if sick we are still alive, even with scars we are alive. When going through chemo. and surgeries I surround myself with positive affirmations. I try to surround myself with inspiring people too and those who need me for advice actually help me pull myself back to centre as it’s always a reminder for me too, how to deal with difficult situations. I think we all have our bad moments, however if we know that we can’t control everything and that we have opportunities and that nothing is forever…then we accept life better. I am one of those that believe in thoughts. That thoughts can change the way you behave and that everything that annoys us probably exists in ourselves somewhat. There is no secret: put on some good music, meditation or party music, say thank you to every opportunity even if it’s a challenge because there is a reason for it, love yourself and take care of YOU! Always SMILE !! and the world will smile at you. My best advice is to look at what you have got not at what you don’t. Know that there are always alternatives to the way you see a situation. I must admit that I have learned a lot from DR TOM’s ‘Healthy Thinking’ workshop last year and listening to other lectures on line.

You are the founder of Paddle For Hope can you explain what it is all about?
PFH – started as a fundraising event on stand up paddle boards. It’s an annual festival on Auckland water which I formed with Starboard NZ (Victoria Stuart). I found SUP really therapeutic and healing both physically and mentally. I started to paddle about 7 years ago. I approached Victoria and since then we have been working together. This is team work! There is a whole list of volunteers and people who help make it happen. This is a vehicle to fundraise for the Paddle On program, which was designed by Pinc and Steel rehabilitation trust. It enables us to help people get their core strength, balance, range of movement and confidence on the water, after being diagnosed with cancer and incorporate that into their daily life. It’s an 8 weeks program which is free to the public. The PFH has become an iconic event where teams of 4 race on the water! It’s a fun family and corporate event. We did have an event in Napier and two in Israel. The program was also launched in Rotorua last year so we are aiming to expand.

How much money has Paddle For Hope raised so far and what does the money go towards?
All the money goes towards the patients program – Paddle On. We have raised over 250k so far. The first two years the money went to the NZBCF rehabilitation programs and after the Paddle On program had been designed we allocated the money to the patients as the service is FREE. We need to keep fundraising each year so we can help more people and make sure we maintain the equipment in good condition and hopefully be able to buy more trailers so we can teach in different places around NZ. The aim is to grow outside NZ.

What’s your next goal you’re striving for for Paddle For Hope?
To have more locations and have more sessions around NZ. We also fundraise by selling the pink paddle board that has been designed by Starboard and myself and carries the warrior princess logo on it. I am hoping we can sell more and use the profits to pay for more patients. If anyone would like to contribute by buying a board please contact me directly or through PFH website. I would love to see more corporates involved with us and increase the level of sponsorship. It is hard work and we are committed to deliver a fun and memorable event for everyone. We have some Starboard international distributers hosting PFH in their countries (Germany, Israel etc). I would like to see this in many countries and more people benefit from the program. I would love to be able to engage with it more throughout the year but it’s all about the balance and doing the best we can. It is growing each year. It is really exciting to see. We are moving towards the 7th year. I would love it to happen in Rotorua for example.

Out of all the sports and different types of exercises, why did you choose paddle boarding?
I love the water. I love the freedom I have while paddle boarding and exploring the different seas, lakes and rivers. The benefits are huge, from getting vitamin D and strengthening my body and mind. I love the community behind it and the fact that I can take my board anywhere. It gives me confidence and clears my mind and allows me to take a break from everything. It challenges me at times when the conditions change and I have to adjust. I love my board.

Why is it so important for breast cancer recovery patients to take up or continue with regular exercise such as paddle boarding?
Breast cancer affects so many people. Cancer treatments in general have huge side effects and those who have been diagnosed carry their scars in different ways. It can be from range of movement to pain and lack of balance, it can cause mood swings and lack of confidence. Any physical activity which is moderate can help people who have been touched by this disease. Paddle boarding is a fun way to engage in a sport that involves water and sun, can help increase the range of movement and helps gain confidence. You can slowly build your strength and ability. If the technique is being taught the right way then the patient can enjoy many health benefits. NZ has water access everywhere so it’s a great opportunity to explore new places and inhale the beautiful scenery.

What advice would you give to some one who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
To take a deep breath. Let it go. Focus on getting better. Focus on you! I would advise them to surround themselves with positive and supportive people. Not to be ashamed of their scars or the fact that they have been diagnosed. To get as much information about their diagnosis and how they can be treated the best way. To take control as this is THEIR journey and even if some people won’t be as helpful to them this is their responsibility to make sure they put themselves first. Eat right, exercise and mediate, do yoga and take a walk when you can, try new things, engage with those who you feel comfortable in sharing your journey with, and ask for HELP! There is nothing worse than feeling you are alone in this. Share it with your children, with your family. We are all in this together.

I am working these days on an app to help patients manage their medication and journey. It is in the initial stages and I am sure that they will find it helpful when it is launched.

What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with their recovery?

It’s okay to ask for help. Get into social groups, speak to a psychologist and family doctor. Find the community that works for you. If your depressed or physically struggling because of medication don’t hesitate to speak to your family about it. I struggle myself with the post cancer medications and reconstruction. I am open about it. Think about what makes you feel good. Try to do one thing for yourself a day, even if it’s 10 minutes.

You’re also involved with redcarpetnz.tv/ – what is it all about and what is your involvement?

RC is an interactive entertainment channel delivered free from the app store. This is all about promoting and supporting NZ (artists, fashion, music, film, events, business)! I got involved two years ago after meeting Debbie, who is the founder. My segment is fashion.

I was always passionate about TV and wanted to get back into it. Debbie has given me the opportunity and so have some of the fashion designers and businesses in NZ. It’s a privilege. What I love about presenting is the conversation and the opportunity to visit different locations, meeting new faces or chatting to familiar ones. The excitement of wearing different outfits and preparing the questions, checking what is new and making sure I am looking the part and exploring new avenues. When I didn’t feel myself and was going through my breast reconstruction, growing my hair and struggling emotionally I was able to stand there and deliver. It makes me feel really good and I can smile, get excited, dress up and pamper myself even if it’s for a few minutes. This is my time. I have gratitude to everyone who is involved and has been supporting my journey.

I have been interviewed for Paddle For Hope on TV and radio many times, I have been an MC for events and have been speaking in public about my journey so I can inspire others. This is where I feel myself and I can take my passion for life and experience on stage and through the camera lens. I have a lot to learn. I love people and engage in conversation. A few years ago I took a TV presenting course and since I love fashion and I do have fun dressing up (it’s all about enjoying what you do) it was a great opportunity for me. Thanks to my partner Manu, I learned so much just by watching him walk the red carpet and speak to reporters. You learn as you go. I was lucky enough to be able to stand by his side in a few occasions and learn. He does it so well.

In terms of interview on camera, I am interested in the actual story behind the designers, and what they would like to deliver. It’s all about building communities, just like with Paddle For Hope, it’s a common passion. I am interested in who they are. If I can help them beyond my interview it is amazing. It can open us to more relationships. I would like to support more of the NZ designers and especially the ones who are evolving and just in the beginning of their fashion career. There is so much talent and passion in Aotearoa and obviously a huge competition, but each one is unique and has a different story behind his or her creation. I have respect to the designers. I would love to see myself sitting and chatting with a group of designers. Look how amazing the Maori collections are and how gorgeous our local models are. There is such a spark of creativity there. There should be more of that on TV. There should be more budget for marketing so designers can dress up these fabulous actors and artist of NZ.

I have shot a pilot which I am hoping to turn into a TV series. This is one of my dreams. It incorporates everything I have been engaged with over the years. When I believe in what I do, when I do what I love it becomes more than a duty or role, it is part of me. It’s natural. I hope I can grow more and accept more opportunities. My dream is to have a segment that brings interesting stories that can inspire more and probably has to do with well being.

Karin’s message:
When life throws hundreds of reasons to cry at you, show life a million reasons to smile!
After the storm comes the calm.
In every struggle there is a hidden message, try turning it to a positive opportunity.
When there is a will there is a way.
Let go of ego.

It wasn’t until I finished proof reading this interview before posting it to the blog that I figured out who Karin reminds me of. In many ways she reminds me of Oprah. I hope that one day Karin does get her TV series or becomes a talk show host, she has so much to share and teach others. If you are attending New Zealand Fashion Week next month, no doubt you will see Karin there, looking glamours as always, with a radiant smile, surrounded by a lot of people who are naturally drawn to her positivity.

For more information about Paddle For Hope and Paddle On go to paddleforhope.co.nz and/or paddleon.co.nz.

I have got a lot of exciting interviews lined up including my next one where I’m interviewing an amazing designer who is off to Fashion Week. Make sure you subscribe (scroll right down to the bottom of this page) to receive a notification when the next blog post is up. xxxB

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