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story.lead_photo.caption Karen Danhof, right, enjoys a laugh with Whitney Carr, a registered nurse, as Danhof begins a chemotherapy treatment at CARTI Benton. Danhof, who has stage 4 colon cancer, volunteers at CARTI and is leading a fundraising campaign through the help of the CARTI Foundation to raise $75,000 to purchase heated infusion recliners and a hematology analyzer for CARTI Benton. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

Standing outside the door of CARTI Benton, Karen Danhof waited to see her doctor and receive another round of chemotherapy for an inoperable colon cancer that has metastasized. The waiting room was full. Visitors learned that approximately 40 patients would be treated at the facility that day.

“It’s so crowded in there. … Besides, it’s much cooler out here,” said Danhof, 64. She began to talk with those who had come to meet her and hear about the fundraising campaign she had volunteered to lead.

“We want to ‘heat the seats,’” she said, laughing. “I approached the CARTI Foundation about this campaign, and they agreed to sponsor it.

“We want to help the CARTI Foundation purchase 10 much-needed recliners with heated seats for patients to sit in while they receive their chemotherapy infusions here at CARTI Benton,” she said. “We also want to help the foundation buy an additional piece of equipment known as a hematology analyzer.”

Dr. Mariann Harrington, a medical oncologist at CARTI, said, “Providing CARTI patients with exceptional care and the most advanced treatment options is our highest priority. We are fortunate that our foundation also puts CARTI patients first. Through the success of the CARTI Foundation and the CARTI Benton fundraising campaign, patients’ experiences will be even more enhanced, providing warmth, comfort and relaxation — helping to expedite our patients’ healing process.”

Harrington began her private practice in Benton in 1986. In 1989, she joined Little Rock Hematology/Oncology, which became CARTI Benton in 2011.

CARTI Benton is open and serves patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays, treating 60 to 70 cancer patients each week. In 2018, the clinic scheduled more than 3,200 patient appointments.

Melissa Masingill, vice president of marketing and business development, said CARTI opened in 1976 as a not-for-profit, multidisciplinary, comprehensive cancer-care provider offering medical and surgical oncology, diagnostic radiology and radiation oncology at locations throughout the state. Chemotherapy is offered in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Benton, Clinton, Conway, El Dorado, Heber Springs, Russellville and Stuttgart. Radiation therapy is offered in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway, Mountain Home and Searcy.

Danhof said the goal of the CARTI Benton campaign is to raise $75,000.

“I know we can reach that goal,” she said, adding that she began a door-to-door campaign in the local business sector in December and plans to pick up the pace this month.

“I visited several businesses, and they told me to come back after the first of the year. … That’s when many of them will be budgeting for donations,” she said.

However, Danhof received the first monetary donation to the campaign as she was talking recently with visitors in the hallway at CARTI Benton. A woman who had heard why visitors were at the center came up to Danhof and handed her a $10 bill.

“My husband is a patient here,” said the unknown benefactor, wiping away tears from her eyes. “This is all I have today. … I want to help.”

Danhof appeared speechless, as tears rushed from her eyes. She said, “Thank you,” and hugged the woman, who quickly returned to the waiting room.

“God’s in everything,” Danhof said, tears still streaming down her face. “You’ve got to believe that. Thank you, Lord. I believe we will get there. I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

“Several times, I have been given only six months to live. Almost four years later, I am still here. I believe there is a reason for that … a purpose for me to fulfill.”

This is not Danhof’s first time to volunteer for CARTI. She has volunteered at the CARTI Little Rock Resource and Appearance Center and in other areas as needed for several years.

In March 2015, Danhof was diagnosed with a secondary cancer with six tumors in her liver.

“In February 2015, I went to my chiropractor and then my family practice doctor with a pain in my shoulder,” she said.

“My doctor did an MRI, thinking it was my gallbladder. It turned out that I had six tumors in my liver. Efforts began then to identify the primary cancer,” she said. “It was colon cancer that had spread to my liver.

“Arrangements were then made with Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, for a second opinion and to have a port implanted. They referred me to Dr. Harrington at CARTI to receive my chemotherapy. After 10 rounds of chemo, I had a portal vein embolization at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas, to see if there would be enough liver remnant to perform a liver resection after six weeks. A liver resection was performed in September 2015, and chemo was resumed.”

Danhof said that in March 2016, a colon resection was performed at the site of the primary cancer, and chemo was again resumed.

“In May 2016, I was pronounced in remission,” she said. “I returned to work at Dole Packaged Foods as the central regional sales manager in September 2016 and worked for nine months. Then a scan showed the colon cancer had metastasized to my lungs. It is inoperable. … I will receive chemo every three weeks ad infinitum.”

Danhof said all chemo has been administered at CARTI, at both the Little Rock and Benton facilities. She has also had lung and rib biopsies performed at CARTI, as well as numerous scans.

“It is personally gratifying to volunteer at CARTI and help others along in their journey,” she said. “I have no doubt that we will reach our fundraising goal. It will come sooner rather than later.”

Danhof said her most recent scan, done on Dec. 28, shows that the cancer is stable.

“That’s what we hope to hear … the ‘s’ word … stable. Hopefully, the chemo will help shrink the six tumors that were found in my lungs. Two of those tumors have been resolved, and four are remaining, and they are inoperable,” she said.

“My husband, Tom, and I have to stay [strong] in our faith,” Danhof said.

“This has been a journey,” she said. “You never know what you can face … how much you can take. The prayers … family and friends … it’s all been unbelievable. I’m going to fight this as long as I can.”

Danhof was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

“My family is still there,” she said. “My dad, Nelson ‘Hank’ Radel, is 92 and just moved into an assisted-living facility. My mother, Helen Ethel Radel, died in a car accident in 1995. I’ve been helping take care of my dad. That’s become part of my purpose in life.

“I want to give back. This fundraising campaign helps me feel like I am contributing.”

Danhof said she did not have a history of cancer in the family, but after she was diagnosed, her Aunt Tig, now 79, was diagnosed with colon cancer.

“She is doing well now,” Danhof said, adding that her aunt is her mother’s sister.

Danhof said Harrington and the medical team at CARTI Benton “are just angels.”

“They are just amazing. I have made so many friends here. It’s a community of caring when you come here,” she said.

“I have been blessed beyond measure. It’s true what they say — you do have a different perspective on everything. Each day is a gift; it truly is. Your faith grows bigger and bigger,” Danhof said.

“I was given a one-in-five chance when first diagnosed, and I leaned in to the doctor and said, ‘That’s OK — I will be that one,’” she said.

“Giving back to CARTI has become my purpose,” Danhof said. “We all have a purpose. … Who knew my new purpose was going to be embarking on a fundraising campaign for CARTI Benton? I think it’s one of the reasons I am still here. So many people will be blessed by this campaign. … It will help others tolerate chemo better by having these heated infusion seats.

“The CARTI Foundation has been so supportive. They have provided me with a brochure and other materials to present to businesses when I go in to talk with them.”

Danhof said individuals, as well as businesses, can make donations to the CARTI Benton fundraising campaign. Donations can be made at carti.ejoinme.org/donate.

“Be sure to select CARTI Benton where it says ‘please direct my gift to,’” Danhof said.

For more information on the CARTI Benton fundraising campaign, contact Mallory Van Dover, vice president of the CARTI Foundation, at (501) 296-3415 or mallory.vandover@carti.com.

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