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Team KW: support Karen Ward as she tackles cancer

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After a successful surgery and slow and steady recovery, Karen has been declared endo cancer-free!

The post-op pathology report was very good—her cancer was stage 1A and her tumour was grade 1—which is just about the best news you can get. Incredibly, no radiation or chemotherapy or further treatment is required!

She will be followed by her cancer care team for the next 5 years with twice-annual check-ups for the next two years, and then an annual check-in with her oncologist once a year after that.

Your support enabled Karen to spend the summer rebuilding her health and strength with lots of rest, gentle exercise, pelvic floor physio, and therapy. She’s also been addressing some pretty fierce post-op menopause symptoms and working with a naturopath who specializes in supporting people during and after cancer treatment.

So, that is the incredibly good news update! With your help Karen did, in fact, hulk-smash cancer. Thanks for being on TEAM HULK SMASH CANCER SURVIVOR!!

Karen has been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, and she requires major surgery and radiation. Because she’s self-employed and will be off work for several months, we’re raising money to help with living expenses and out-of-pocket treatment costs.


We’re throwing Karen a Cancer Shower and you’re invited! Instead of mortifying games, we’ll be hosting four different online workshops that will help you unlock useful and life-affirming skills (read: superpowers) like how to tap into your intuition, build resilience, motivate people, and tell captivating stories. If you donate to this GoFundMe campaign, we will send you all of the superpower workshop and registration details.

If you know Karen Ward, you know she’s a GIVER.

A giver of time, money, incredible advice, fun adventures, world-class care packages, a wicked sense of humour, excellent tutorials on pom poms and origami, and the giver of a curious, creative, and joy-filled lens on the world that uplifts and inspires everyone around her.

And if you know givers like Karen, you know that they're often the last to ask for help, even when they most need it.

Right now, Karen needs our help.

She was recently diagnosed with endometrial cancer and as she undergoes surgery and radiation treatment, she will have to hit pause on her consulting work for several months. To support her while she recovers, we're raising money to help with living expenses and the treatment costs that aren’t covered by Canadian health care.

As a GIVER, Karen has hosted and attended dozens of wedding and baby showers, but she’s never had one hosted for her. So, we’ve decided to throw her a Cancer Shower. The theme is SUPERPOWERS and instead of awkward and embarrassing shower games, we’re going to have fun and interesting workshops. Everyone who donates can attend, no matter where you are in the world, and have a great time unlocking superpowers like how to tap into your intuition, build resilience, motivate people, and tell captivating stories.

If you have already donated, check the update emails in your inbox for details. If you haven’t yet, the suggested donation to attend the workshops is $50 but please give what you can (and feel free to give more).

And if you're interested in the specifics of Karen’s situation, please keep reading.

Marsha + Sara

Karen got her diagnosis of endometrial cancer in April 2023.

It was unexpected, and although her cancer is treatable, it is a Big Deal.

First, she needs major surgery: a complete hysterectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy with lymph node sampling.

After the surgery, she will need radiation treatment which could be anything from a few sessions to five weeks of daily treatments, depending on the outcome of the surgery. Chemo is a "maybe" for now, also pending pathology results post-surgery. We're keeping our fingers crossed that she won't need it, but the worst case is that she could be in treatment and recovery for the rest of the year.

The number one question Karen has been getting from the people close to her is this:


We anticipate that the same question will continue to come from her many friends, fans, clients, and colleagues around the world, as the news of her health situation spreads.

In response, we (her friends Marsha Shandur and Sara Smeaton), have created this GoFundMe campaign so her global community can support Karen through this crappy situation, allowing her to focus on healing and recovery. And we turned it into a Cancer Shower because that felt more creative, more fun, and more Karen.

While there are many gifts associated with being self-employed (as Karen is), there are also some very real challenges in circumstances like this. There is no paid sick leave, no employer benefits (to cover medical expenses not covered by Canadian health care), and, of course, a loss of income. That this cancer diagnosis comes after several months of long Covid recovery for Karen (along with a reduced ability to work due to the symptoms), makes the financial uncertainty ahead that much more stressful.

Despite the current situation, Karen is the first to note that she's more fortunate than many who face cancer — she has incredible family support, a cozy place to stay during treatment and recovery, and an excellent medical team.

She does, however, have to keep paying her living expenses and the many out-of-pocket treatment costs that Canada's universal healthcare does not cover:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Pre- and post-op physiotherapy
  • Lab tests
  • Supplemental care (like nutrition and pain management therapies); and
  • The cost of travel to and from treatment appointments.

If you know Karen, it will not shock you to learn that when we first started talking about doing something like this fundraiser, she was resistant.

And then she started brainstorming all sorts of things she could do to repay the kindness of anyone who donated…“I could host a Cancer Curiosity Camp for everyone, or maybe a few art workshops, or what if I…” She just couldn’t help herself.

We said "absolutely not" and pointed out that, given the very extreme circumstances she finds herself in right now, it's time for her to just RECEIVE.

We could write an even longer essay on how exceptional Karen is…her fierce smarts, her incredible generosity, her sharp wit, deep insight, her genuine kindness.

But as we’ve already said a lot, we’ll leave it to some of her other dear friends, colleagues and collaborators to share some thoughts about her.

When we put the call out for testimonials, even we were blown away by the stories that came back.

Because we know you haven't got all day and this is a lot to take in, we've edited them down to highlights.

But trust us when we tell you that most were five times as long and bursting with beautiful tributes.

One final thing we wanted to share is that Karen is feeling called to write about her cancer experience and she will be sharing much of that writing publicly. If you donate, those updates will be emailed to you. As you may know, she's a wonderful writer so that is absolutely something to look forward to. Plus of course, you’ll get access to the Superpower Cancer Shower workshops!

Karen Ward is a great big giver.

And so loved.

Let's show her we’ve got her back.

Every little bit helps.

Thank you!!

Marsha + Sara

PS here are those love notes we mentioned, they're amazing...

“Karen leads with her enormous heart and gives from her bottomless well of generosity.”

When my 2-year-old son had cancer Karen dropped everything.

Despite an intense work schedule, Karen spent her day at Sick Kids waiting until the surgeon came to give us the news of how the surgery to remove his kidney went before she headed out. This was in 2006 before wifi made it possible to work anywhere — so she literally just hung out at the hospital. This is what Karen does. She leads with her enormous heart and gives from her bottomless well of generosity.

Something I know to be true is that it is a privilege and a gift to support people who are constantly giving of themselves and are an unwavering anchor for their family and friends. Karen is such a person.

I have known Karen for over 25 years. We met at university where I knew her to be someone who cared and got involved in everything that was important to her. This remains true today. Her passion for people, entrepreneurship, discovery, community and a whole-hearted vision to make the world a better place are but a few of the gleaming attributes that make Karen such a special person.

Let’s show her that the beautiful world of kindness, compassion, creativity and love that she strives to create for others is here to hold her up when she needs us.
– Donna Bishop

“Karen included things in the cancer care package she sent that I didn't even know I would need! Every item had a little love note attached that made me smile or tear up - and sometimes both.”

Karen and I have been friends since the first day of university when she came down the hall in residence to use my phone. We became housemates throughout our time at Queen's, took a two-month road trip, and were roommates at our first grown-up apartment in Toronto. She was then was my maid of honour, one of the first to hold our babies, and a superstar packer when our family moved into our first home.

After such a long and special friendship, it was no surprise to me that, when I went through my own bout with cancer last year, Karen was an incredible support. When I shared the crummy news, she responded with her characteristic love and well-placed profanity (I did love me a good "F**k cancer" every once in a while!). Flowers arrived and frozen meals were delivered to support my family. She drove a few hours and showed up at my door with the most thoughtful care package to help me through post surgery. Using her ingenuity and sewing skills, she lovingly modified fun pajamas for me and provided everything I would need to feel somewhat human in those rough early days.

When I ended up having to go through chemotherapy, another huge care package arrived that somehow outdid the first one. The research and creativity was beyond belief. Karen included things that I didn't even know I would need! From the practical to the silly to the inspirational, she thought of everything. And then some. Every item had a little love note attached that made me smile or tear up - and sometimes both. And when I was finished with all of my treatments, celebratory macarons were delivered to my door!

But it wasn't just about the "things" that Karen sent when I was going through one of the most challenging periods in my life. What mattered even more were her regular texts. Pictures of her cute nieces and nephews were shared to make me smile. Messages brimming with words of encouragement and support popped up on days that she knew were going to be extra tough. And there was humour. Lots of humour. With Karen, she can always see and help others see some lightness in difficult times.

It is perhaps symbolic that some of the most special physical gifts that Karen has given our family over the years have been blankets. My son loved snuggling under his super-soft cow blanket on chilly mornings as we drove to daycare and my daughter always wanted her fluffy, green blanket on long car rides to visit family. I still wrap up almost nightly in the throw that she brought us as a housewarming gift when we moved into our home. And in the best chemo care package of all times, there was a fuzzy blanket that I regularly snoozed under all last year (and that our kids now fight over on movie nights).

Karen is kind of like a blanket in my world.

She makes me feel warm and cozy and safe.
She wraps me and my family in her love.

Let’s wrap her up in ours.

– Vanessa Vanclief

“She knows what you need to do before you do...”

Karen is the big-hearted friend who gives you pep talks and makes you a rainbow-colored pompom necklace just because it’s a gray, blah, and rainy day, and she knows you could use a pick-me-up.

She’s the ultra-thoughtful neighbor who, when your entire family is sick, brings you huge pots of soup, an assortment of tea, cold-busting ginger concoctions and your kids’ favorite candy.

She’s the cheerleader who, when she knows you’re going through a tough spell, sends you heart-warming and laugh-out-loud animal reels and photos.

She’s the community leader who creates incredible opportunities for people to come together and learn, grow, and share. In the middle of Covid, her Curiosity Camps were a deep source of hope, connection, joy, and energy when we needed it the most.

She is a wildly intuitive visionary who just gets it, and knows what you need to do before you know. She’s immensely generous with connecting with her global network of friends and people she knows to help you grow.

She’s the mentor who always has refreshing, brilliant, and tangible ideas to help you take action and crush any project you’re working on.

And she is the best chosen family member you could ever have.

Let’s show her some love.

– Tinka Markham Piper

“When COVID came, Karen took her mission online. We were not going to let this thing take us down, she would make sure of it. ”

When Karen and I first hung out, to say that I was utterly awe-struck might be an understatement. I had never met anyone quite like Karen before.

Sharp, witty, warm, empathetic, engaging, unassuming, and just so darn cool. And funny too!

She is someone who turned her profound curiosity and creative spirit into a livelihood AND uses it to effect positive change through advocacy, community-building, or simply touching other human beings, one at a time.

Our subsequent dates had me venturing further away from our hood and from my conventional life to meet up with and hang out with Karen, and I found myself signing off an email with “You inspire me in such good ways, always!”.

Almost a year after meeting her, I got to see Karen in her element, absolutely radiant in front of a Creative Mornings Montreal crowd talking about her journey with curiosity. And then, as a Street Wisdom guide as she helped urban souls find wonder in the everyday surroundings of the city.

And then came Covid and Karen took her mission online. We were not going to let this thing take us down, she would make sure of it.

Colouring sheets were sent my way for my little and big kids, Aunty Kiki TV streamed into our house, producing a giant rainbow that was placed in our window, along with a pot of gratitude the whole family could fill. The summer lockdown blues were attenuated by Curiosity Summer Camp, a carefully curated cornucopia of fun, joyful, and interesting activities to lift the spirit.

For the holidays that year, Karen offered us an origami workshop, not just to regale my youngest, but also to raise much-needed funds for local food banks. And then Curiosity Winter Camp… relentless and determined to bring a breath of fresh air amid the pandemic heaviness and spread good far and wide.

While the Curiosity Global Community Centre and Karen’s long-standing My Curious Eyes project are testaments to her ability to spark curiosity in service of community, these demonstrate just a few of her many special superpowers. I have been privileged to experience another one, her friendship.

When I was so grief-stricken that I could not see the beauty around me from the tears flowing from my eyes, Karen was there, non-judgmental, holding space, listening, seeing, and helping me to see the beauty within, with her usual humor and grace. She is the friend who showed up at my door on my first Covid birthday with a beautiful card and a book about friendship. When her uncanny talent for wonder is turned toward you, the world becomes somehow more kind, welcoming, and abundant with possibility.

If you’ve experienced Karen’s light, you know why we need to keep it bright, and if you have not yet had the chance, may your support keep her shining even brighter and further so that you and others can too.

– Andrea Forgacs

“Epic generosity and thoughtfulness.”

Karen Ward is one crazy ass thoughtful human being.

Karen has been there for me through some really crunchy times, wrapping me up with her loving kindness, wicked humour and extraordinary generosity. Just one example I'd love to share is that in the middle of the pandemic, in January 2020, I had major foot surgery. MAJOR. I was in a lot of pain and unable to walk for about 6 weeks ~ it was brutal. And I live solo.

From her place in Montreal, Karen arranged to have the most wonderful yummy frozen meals delivered to me in Toronto, meals that were easy to prep, comforting and nutritious. She had a million other things on the go, hundreds of miles away, yet somehow she found the time to source, select and send exactly what I needed to help me heal ~ foot, body and soul.

Truly epic generosity and thoughtfulness.

Truly epic kindness.

Truly epic Karen Ward.

– Debra Deen Kerby

“Karen invests deeply in the people, projects, and causes she loves and cares about…”

Karen is a creative, deeply caring and inspiring person who is super generous with her time and ideas. Having known her for over 30 years, I can attest that Karen has many 'superpowers' but her cape really starts to billow when she gets fired up about something.

From giving pro bono work to non-profit organizations, to curating incredible workshops and speakers for Curiosity Camp, to taking an interest in my kids (and ALL the kids in her life), Karen invests deeply in the people, projects, and causes she loves and cares about.

She is fiercely determined (you’ve been warned cancer!) and she has this awesome ability to be serious minded and mischievous, fun and funny in equal measure. She was so amazing when helping me think about and plan out the academic research I had to do for my Masters…and somehow managed to make it fun!

She sends thoughtful gifts and words of encouragement when her people need them, and also manages to lighten life’s heaviness with her trademark humour and irreverence.

Karen connects people and shares her energy and passions in such an incredible way. Let’s give some of that love and energy back to her right now.

– Alison Hamilton

PPS Don’t forget – if you want to attend the Superpower Cancer Shower workshops, DONATE NOW and we’ll send you the workshop and registration details!


  • Phillip Daniels
    • $100 
    • 9 mos
  • Sarah Olin
    • $25 
    • 9 mos
  • Phillip Haid
    • $100 
    • 10 mos
  • Cathy Raines
    • $50 
    • 10 mos
  • Lisa Talbot
    • $50 
    • 10 mos

Fundraising team (3)

Marsha Shandur
Toronto, ON
Karen Ward
Leelee Macdonell
Team member
Sara Smeaton
Team member

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