A Life That Is Fulfilled

CarynPhotoToday, we introduce you to Caryn Kaplan, a long time LBBC supporter who recently was presented with our Anne Klein Volunteer of the Year Award.  Caryn has been diagnosed with breast cancer three times, most recently learning of a metastazation from her breast to her liver and bones.  Despite this, she continues to find ways her life has been positively impacted.

“The phone rang….. My doctor confirmed that the lump was malignant.  The next thing I knew I was having a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy.  The biopsy came back that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.  Stage II, breast cancer.  My life had changed forever….”

Where Caryn’s story all began…

Sandra and Burt Specter, 53 years ago, on May 12th 1960 gave birth a new baby girl.  Yes, that’s me, they named me Caryn Lynn, after my great great Aunt Clara.  It is then when I met my big brother Bradley Paul, my senior of 3 years.  We happily lived in the section of Northeast Phila, Oxford Circle.  We were all quite content there.  My parent father, a retail merchant, selling men’s wear in his store in Kensington and my mom taking on odd jobs to fill her time.  After 12 years of living on Algon Ave, my brother about to start high school, my parents had decided they wanted us to move to a place in which they believed the schools were better for my brother and me.  Then, as soon as we knew it we were moving to Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  That is where is finished we both finished our primary education.  My father now commuting back and forth to Philly to run his store, and by now my mother had opened up a string of women’s boutiques.  It was now off to college for my brother and then me.  My brother a graduate of what once was Philadelphia Textiles and now goes under the name Philadelphia University.  Three years later, I was off to Syracuse University, graduating in 1982 with a degree in Retail Buying and Management.   I got a job right out of college, at a department store formally named Bamberger’s, which is now known as Macy’s.  I started out in their buying/management training program, and quickly rose to assistant buyer.  At Bamberger’s, I joined my brother and met my now sister-in-law (yes, we all traveled that same retail route), Stephanie.  Stephanie and I became instant friends and I introduced her to my brother and one year later they were married. 

Flashing back to my junior year in college, I met my now husband Paul, down the shore, in Margate, New Jersey.  We had a long distant relationship with me being in Syracuse and him a student at American University in Washington, DC.  We both graduated college the same year, and in 1985 we were married on April 14th.  Within 2 years, we had our first child, Jennifer, born coincidencely on my father’s birthday, January 6th, 1988.  Two years after she was born, I soon gave birth to my son, Brandon in 1990. At that time, like my parents, we moved from Northeast Philadelphia to Holland, PA.  The kids brought me such joy and happiness.  My husband worked endless hours in his family business, and left a lot of child rearing duties to me. I loved watching my kids grow and reaching milestones.

In 1997, as my family flourished, I soon found out that cancer was also flouring in my right breast.  I had felt a lump.  Of course I didn’t think anything of it, but after telling my husband about it, he arrived at my workplace and immediately took me to the family doctor.  Then I guess we all know about the whirlwind that occurs.  The doctors’ appointments, mammogram and biopsy’s.  It was an out-of-body experience.

The phone rang….. My doctor confirmed that the lump was malignant.  The next thing I knew I was having a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy.  The biopsy came back that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.  Stage II, breast cancer.  My life had changed forever….I underwent chemo and radiation, while still holding down my full time job, and trying not to miss a beat with my children. I got thru that with little interruption of my life.  Upon my exact 5 year visit with my surgeon, we hugged and he congratulated me on the five years, but took one look at my breast and saw that my right breast didn’t look right.  Again, another biopsy right there in his office.  Yes, another phone call… the tumor was back.  With my family sitting in the surgeon’s office, my doctor, surgeon and I privately discussed the plan of action.  Since the cancer was in the same breast it meant a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy.  We broke the news to the 10 of my family members sitting in the waiting room.  The outpouring of support was incredible.  I wasn’t scared, I knew I had to do this.  I had the mastectomy, reconstruction, and chemotherapy.  This time I knew what to expect.  And surprisingly the drugs to fight the side effects were that much more advanced.  I kept my job and still didn’t miss a beat with my children or my husband.  Fast forward once again, 5 years and 2 weeks later, my kids tucked away at college, Jen at University of Michigan and Brandon at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.  I had a pain in my abdomen and thinking I had a hernia in my abdomen, I again went for an MRI.  The image showed masses on my liver and bones.  The whirlwind started once again.  I now was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer with metastasis to my liver and bones.  That was 4 ½ years ago, and I decided to retire from my full time job.  It was now my time to do what was important to me.  I watched both kid’s graduate college, and get jobs in their perspective fields.  My daughter (now 26) lives in Minneapolis and works as a financial planner for General Mills.  My son, Brandon (now 23) lives in Los Angelos and works as an agent’s assistant for the William Morris Talent Agency.

My cancer has brought me through many phases of my life.  A life that is fulfilled.  I have raised my children to become independent – and I couldn’t be more proud of them.  A husband who has been with me throughout my journey, holding me tight, soothing me, but always standing on the platform with a loving heart when the roller coaster started each time.  My cancer has taught me how to live, fight but mostly it has empowered me.   I now am doing exactly always wanted to do, giving back to others, paying it forward, and working for the greater good.  I currently give my time to LBBC volunteering whenever possible.  Also, I am always here to help anyone affected by this disease, whether it’s a ride, a phone call or just being there for them.

So, in the end, my life has become full circle.  I know the cancer has caused my family, support system, and me much turmoil.  I have no anger towards my cancer, because it has brought me to the place where it always wanted to be, which is helping others unconditionally. So, I do want to thank my cancer for allowing me to be me, and help others…


On April 26th and 27th LBBC will be hosting our 8th Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer at the Philadelphia Marriott West in West Conshohocken, Pa.  This conference is a two-day, national conference designed to address the complex medical, social and emotional challenges that women diagnosed with metastatic disease, their families and caregivers experience. For more information or to register please click here

6 thoughts on “A Life That Is Fulfilled

  1. What an awesome but sad at the same time story. I two had my original cancer at stage II. Mastectomy chemo,reconstruction and radiation! At the 8th anniversary almost to the day I lost my husband of 25 years from a stroke. At my 10th anniversary of primary dx I was considered cured. At my 15th anniversary i said good-by to my oncologist as he was moving on in his career. 3 months later after having suffered a severe lower back ache for months I was dx with metastatic disease in my bones. The tumor in my lower back fractured my vertebrae so I had to be in a back brace and wheelchair and go thru radiation on the back as well as three other areas. Today I am doing great. I’m back to the gym doing my crafts painting rooms etc. then a serious bout of pneumonia had me back in hosp for a week. It’s been three weeks and I’m still working on getting back my stamina. I travel from Albany to Boston’s Dana Farber cancer institute every month. I’m hear tonight after having my 90day PET scan earlier today. Tomorrow I find out how the letrozole I’ve been on is working. Just another step in the process. I applaud your strength and courage. I’m told I’m very strong and courageous as well and I reply WELL OF COURSE there is no other alternative. I’ve been in Tx 18 months now. I love my life. I no longer work and spend a lot of time with my granddaughter and on my scrapbooking and crafting. I have tried to get involved with volunteering with ACS but they want me to do a lot of lifting and setting up of event sites. Can’t do that. I am so excited about the conference this month and plan to be there with my daughter. Thanks for this introduction to a very string woman!


  3. Caryn .. you are a true warrior. Your courage and strength is absolutely inspirational. You’ve never hosted a pity party for yourself, instead you use your energy to help others. I’m humbled by how you face your challenges.
    Carry on soldier!!
    Valerie Grossman-Corrado

  4. Wow, Caryn, you are some kind of fighter. I hope I can have the same tenacity as you as I go through this cancer battle.

  5. Pingback: I Was Not Just ‘Another Person’ With Metastatic Breast Cancer | LBBC's Blog

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