Power of art helps breast cancer survivor with recovery

Karen Arney's art displayed in her doctor's office to inspire others

ORLANDO, Fla. – When actress Angelina Jolie made the decision to have an elective double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer, there has been an increase in women deciding to make the same decision and have reconstructive

News 6 spoke to one woman who beat breast cancer three times and used art to cope with the long recovery after her surgery.

"I didn't realize that art played such a big role in the healing, the mental healing part of everything that she had been through," said Karen Arney, who has been through a lot.

Ten years ago, Arney went for a routine mammogram and found out she had two breast cancers, one hidden behind the other.

After a lumpectomy, radiation and five years of a hormone drug she was on her way to enter remission for the cancer.

But her doctor suggested that she have another MRI, just to make sure the cancer was really gone.

"So he called me at 7:30 p.m. at night and said I'm so sorry, but now we have to do a double mastectomy because something's telling me that your body just loves to make cancer," Arney told News 6 anchor Kirstin O’Connor.

Arney had a removal of both breasts and she thought she had been through the worst of it, but she was just beginning.

"My primary care physician called many other surgeons and nobody would even take me, that's how badly I was messed up, I was mangled basically," Arney said.

"I had 17 reconstructive surgeries, and had I not found Dr. Lee I don't even know if I would be alive," she continued.

Dr. Kenneth Lee at the University of Florida Health Cancer Center in Orlando told News 6 more reconstructive surgeries only consist of two to four operations.

"You could imagine the majority of the patients that we see that have been through 10, 12, 15 surgeries.

They're down, you know they're depressed, they're going through such a tough time," Lee said.

But with the depression that most patients feel, Arney decided to channel those feelings into her secret talent ... art.

She purchased a $20 art kit from Barnes and Nobles.

"She talked about it all the time, right, her art. And all the stuff that she did ... but to ... but we didn't realize how talented she really was until she showed me something I was like, that looks amazing we need some of this stuff,” Lee said.

Her artwork has flowers, dramatic color pallets and scenery created to take her mind away from being bedridden.

"I felt like finally I think I'm getting well, and I think you can see it there," Arney told O’Connor as they were observing one of her painting in Lee’s office.

Arney is now getting results for new patients walking in Lee’s office and helping heal from the inside out.

"I actually went to France and I bought a great big amount of paint from Paris, actually, and that's what I painted this with, my Paris paints. Now I no longer use the $20,” Arney said, laughing.

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