Karen Webster Cancer tests your mettle, management consultant discovers

After receiving her diagnosis and undergoing a lumpectomy near her home in Maryland, breast cancer survivor and management consultant Karen Webster searched the Internet to find the right cancer center and oncologist for her follow-up care. She wanted more than a traditional approach and settled on Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and its breast cancer specialist Eric Winer, MD — 750 miles away.

“Something about his write-up appealed to me,” recalls Webster. “In addition to offering the very best treatments, he also seemed focused on quality of life. I knew immediately that he was my guy. So I got an appointment and traveled to Boston with my files.

“At my first visit with Dr. Winer, he not only reviewed my medical history but got to know me as a person, asking me many questions to assess my tolerance for risk so that together we could plan the right treatment,” continues Webster. “In true consultant fashion I asked him to ‘draw me a matrix,’ which he did. In a column on the left side were my treatment options, at the top were my possible outcomes. Naturally, I selected the treatment protocol that put me in the upper right quadrant — just where all good consultants strive to be.”

Luckily, her firm had an office in Boston, so Webster — who was chief operating officer — relocated to Boston in the Fall of 2001 when it was clear she’d need ongoing treatment. So began a very eventful chapter of her life.

Three milestones at once

Webster, who had an ER-positive breast cancer (a type fueled by estrogen), tackled cancer as she would a project for work, choosing a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. From November to May, she felt safe and secure at DF/BWCC, where she says “they genuinely care about you as a person and take special care to devise a treatment program tailored to you, combining the very best of research and care.” She adds that as the steward of her care, Winer boosted her confidence and courage.

That year, Webster experienced three major life changes: in addition to battling cancer, she got married and began her own management consulting firm. “It was a very intense time,” remembers her husband, David Evans. “Karen was amazing, keeping her full work schedule while going through cancer treatment. We were very busy and had little time to dwell on the cancer, confident that we were in a premier center and being cared for by an excellent team led by Dr. Winer.” Just a few weeks after Webster finished treatment, she and Evans were married in Rome.

Five years later she measures success in all three areas, and says cancer changed her outlook. “I would never have had the courage to start my own firm if I hadn’t battled cancer. It tests you. You find out whether or not you really are the fighter you think you are.”

Determined to give back, Webster is a Dana-Farber trustee, donor, and member of the Adult Patient and Family Advisory Council. “My passion,” she says, “is to help the patients who came after me, reassure them that they are in a good place and do what I can to help the doctors and researchers get the tools they need to fight the fight — and win — for all of us.”

Watch her story

Christine Cleary
christine_cleary@dfci.harvard.edu

Courtesy of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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