Book by survivor of Nazis prepared her for blessings

Karen Weiss said she learned "it is possible to go through something so horrific and ... still have joy and peace. . . ."
Karen Weiss said she learned "it is possible to go through something so horrific and ... still have joy and peace. . . ."
Posted: October 10, 2012

Through Oct. 17, and The Inquirer will mark breast cancer awareness month by publishing a profile a day of transformative moments reported by patients. The series culminates in a special News section Oct. 18, and can be viewed at

Perhaps it was luck, fate, or a blessing, but weeks before being diagnosed with breast cancer, Karen Weiss read a book by Corrie Ten Boom called The Hiding Place.

Weiss was amazed how the faith of the author, who hid Dutch Jews from the Nazis, grew only stronger as horrors mounted.

"I was deeply reassured," she said, "that it is possible to go through something so horrific and to still have joy and peace and even blessing."

The book had helped prepare her for her own trial: On Sept. 7, 2011, her 40th birthday, she was diagnosed.

Weiss, of Havertown, decided to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. As surgery approached, she said, "I likened the feeling to that of being buckled into the car of a terrifying roller-coaster ride. You know what's coming, there's no turning back, and you are just waiting as you climb higher and higher to the top before nose-diving straight down at breakneck speed."

But the anxiety she anticipated never came.

And blessings flowed.

On Sunday morning, Oct. 9, the day before surgery, her pastor invited anyone interested to stay after the service for a special time of prayer for her.

"The room was filled," she recalled, "and every aspect regarding my surgery, diagnosis, and family needs was covered in prayer."

The night before surgery, she "joyously proclaimed" on Facebook: "I DO have the peace that passes all understanding!"

And the next morning, "while on the stretcher awaiting to be wheeled off to surgery," she said, "I was surrounded by several loved ones, including my husband, Dave, and my parents. My dad said the most heartwarming prayer that I've ever heard him pray, and as I was being taken away, I had a deep sense of peace."

It was a peace she rarely lost in the ensuing year.

"Never before have I experienced the sense of community and support as I have in this past year," she said.

For months, friends from the neighborhood, from church, from her aerobics class, from her children's school, cooked and delivered meals, drove her to chemo appointments, sent encouraging notes and care packages.

"Would I want to go through it all over again?" she asked. "No. But at the same time, there are many reasons that I wouldn't trade this experience for anything."

She cited these examples:

"For the deeper sense of God's presence and provision in my life. For the experience of peace in the midst of a storm. For the experience of letting go when you realize that things are not in your control and there's nothing you can do about it.

"For the experience of being in a community that really comes together and reaches out in times of hardship. For new relationships that wouldn't have been formed otherwise and for opportunities both now and in the future to support, to encourage, and to help others who are facing or will face these same kinds of challenges."

- Michael Vitez

Contact Michael Vitez at or 215-854-5639.

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