4 generations of women impacted by cancer-causing gene

TULSA - The poem that hangs over Liz Williams' dining room table could describe her family's journey in recent years.

"After my blossoms fade, I can be fragile and weakened by the buffeting winds of life," reads the poem.

Williams wrote the poem while taking a Catholic ministry class two decades ago.

After 21 years working as a nurse, Williams retired in 2001.

"Just a few months after retiring, I was diagnosed with breast cancer," said Williams. "And it was very, very hard to live with."

After six months of special care, which included 33 radiation treatments, doctors declared Williams cancer-free.

But the pain was just beginning.

A few years later, her granddaughter, Kara Beeler, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

"Never even thought I would get it at all," said Beeler. "Then you start going through these questions 'Why me? Why me?'"

Two months later, Beeler's mother and Williams' daughter, Karen Howerton, was also diagnosed.

"I didn't even let them know when I had mine because I didn't want them to be upset," Howerton said of her initial decision not to tell her family about her breast cancer.

Doctors discovered each of the women carried BRCA-2, a gene that when mutated, can cause cancer.

The gene can be passed down from either parent to child.

Beeler's 18-year-old daughter, Kelsie, recently found out she carried the gene.

"When it came back it was really hard just to grasp the concept to know what I'd have to go through," said Kelsie Beeler.

To prevent cancer, doctors say Kelsie will need to have her ovaries and uterus removed.

"I at least want to have one child before I get my ovaries and uterus removed," she said.

Williams and Howerton remain in remission after their mastectomies.

Even though Kara Beeler had her breasts removed, the cancer returned this year.

This time, she said it had spread to her back and skull.

"Even though you don't have breasts, those cancer cells can move through the blood, through the lymph system and can set up elsewhere in your body," she said.

Beeler said she has good days and bad days.

"It's the pain and fatigue I'm battling right now," she said.

Beeler said her prognosis is good.

In the days, months and years ahead, the women say they will be there for each other, like the dandelion described in Williams' poem.

"There are those who thrive only by the nutrients in my vegetation, so my life is not without a purpose," reads the poem.


Family and friends are holding a benefit for Kara Beeler to help pay for out of pocket medical bills and other expenses.

The benefit includes a chicken noodle dinner, live music, raffle, silent auction and baked goods.

It will be held Sunday, May 19 at 12:30 p.m. at Mohawk Post 308, which is located at 11328 E. Admiral Pl. in Tulsa.

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