Fundraiser set for Worth woman fighting rare cancer
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org October 9, 2013 8:31AM
Updated: October 29, 2013 8:15PM
Karen Schnelle-Marrello is a fighter and has the boxing gloves to prove it.
She received the pair of white gloves, signed by supporters at Victory Martial Arts, during the amazing 13 months of her life which saw her diagnosed with an extremely rare type of cancer, endure a couple of surgeries — not to mention an 11-day coma — and keep a positive attitude.
Through it all, the 43-year-old Worth woman has retained her faith, her sense of humor and her resiliency.
Don’t call her a cancer victim. She’s a cancer survivor. The mother of six has plenty of supporters in the close-knit community and she’s looking forward to spending a special night with some of them.
Kicking It With Karen, a fundraiser that takes aim at her staggering medical bills — “in the neighborhood of $70,000,” she said — will be held Oct. 12 at The Chieftain, 6906 W. 111th St., just a few blocks north of her home.
There will be raffles, games, food and live music by the Jenny Rockis Trio, Paula Mar, and The PriSSillas. The event starts at 6 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. There is a cash bar.
Sitting on her front porch on a spectacular autumn afternoon, Schnelle-Marrello discussed the past 13 months which, she said, have her appreciating the love shared by fellow Worth residents.
“I love it here. I never really appreciated how close everyone was until this happened,” she said.
Her constant headaches and sinus infections resulted in doctors finding a golf ball-sized mass that was diagnosed as esthesioneuroblastoma, an extremely rare cancer. The mass was removed in September 2012.
She lost 65 pounds thanks to chemotherapy, but since has put 20 on. Her long blonde hair fell out and grew in brown and curly. She wears an eye patch over her right eye thanks to a recent bout of double vision after a postsurgery coma in June, but she has been told her vision eventually should clear up.
The blended family she has with her husband, Oak Lawn chiropractor Dr. Rory Marrello, has six children ranging in age from 3 to 22. Her health crisis has been hard on the entire family.
“There were months on end when it was all I could do to move from the bed to the couch. I had therapy when I spent one week in the hospital, one week at home. Chemo for a week and then a week of the constant nausea, the vomiting,” she said.
The fundraiser has her “in awe.”
“The last year has been such a lesson in how amazing this community is around here. We had a meal train, people came with meals three days a week. They actually set a schedule online. It was very humbling,” she said.
The coma was an unsettling experience. She said she sensed the presence of loved ones in her hospital room, and recalls being filled with despair when they left. When she finally awakened, her first request was for a chocolate shake from Burger King. The second request was to learn whether the Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup.
Despite all the hardship Schnelle-Marrello endured, she insists she is not angry at God, saying this is the hand dealt her.
“If anything, my faith is stronger. Wailing at the stars is all lost energy to me. My focus needs to be on the work ahead, getting and staying better, and making sure my family is taken care of,” she said.
In the meantime, she’s looking forward to spending a fun Saturday night with her many friends and family.
For those who can’t attend, donations also can be sent to Private Bank, c/o Kicking It With Karen, 6825 W. 111th St., Worth, IL 60482.