Breast cancer survivor to share story at annual event

Karin Steffens, who was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2004 and has been in remission for a little more than a decade now, will speak at the Marquette County Relay for Life at 7:30 p.m. Friday during the Survivor Ceremony. She’s pictured here with her book-writing team, all stage 4 breast cancer survivors. From the left, Kathy Weber, Karin Steffens, Carrie Zenti, and Barb Schmitt. Missing is Edelgard Yakovich, the friend who has been living the longest in the group with stage 4 breast cancer, since 1988. The group was called Five Alive. (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — Karin Steffens said when she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2004, it had already spread to her bones.

Steffens, who has been in remission for a little more than a decade now, will speak at the Marquette County Relay for Life at 7:30 p.m. Friday during the Survivor Ceremony.

The event kicks off with an opening lap at 4 p.m. at Al Quaal Recreational Area in Ishpeming. It culminates at 11 a.m. Saturday with the Fight Back Lap. Other events planned during the relay — which raises money for the American Cancer Society — include a basket auction at 6 p.m., a torch lap at 9:15 p.m. and the Luminaria Ceremony at 9:30 p.m. There will also be a silent auction, games and music by Northern Lights A Capella and the Upper Yoopers Barbershop Choir.

Steffens, of Gwinn, was born and raised in Germany, but has resided in different parts of the Upper Peninsula since 1988. Steffens, who taught at Northern Michigan University in the Economics Department at the time of her diagnosis, said it came as a shock.

“I had no family history,” she said. “I had a really hard time dealing with that — but I had a great support system.”

That support system included her friends and family and a special group of four other women who had also been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

“There were five of us who formed a book-writing group,” she said, adding it also served as a support group.

Steffens said the outline of her speech Friday is based on this book.

One member of the group was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer much earlier than Steffens.

“She became an inspiration early on in my journey,” Steffens said.

Of the group of five in her book-writing group, two have since died. She said her address Friday will be in honor and memory of her “cancer friends.”

Steffens, 58, volunteers at the American Cancer Society Resource Office located in the Upper Peninsula Medical Center in Marquette. Steffens said she was honored when asked if she would speak at Friday’s relay event.

“Since my diagnosis, I try to help others and be an inspiration to others,” she said, later adding she tries to be helpful to other women and people with cancer.

Steffens, who left her job at NMU after her diagnosis, said she tries to enjoy every day. Steffens is married and also has a horse and a dog, and said she works to keep her stress down. Though in remission, she said she still receives treatment.

“It’s a miracle,” she said.

Mary Ann Heath can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 247. Her email address is mheath@miningjournal.net.