Festival of Hope organizer Kate Carroll tosses beads last month to a few dozen people watching the parade on Main Street in Bethel. The town resident celebrates after two surgeries for brain aneurysms and one for breast cancer in a span of six years. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

BETHEL — Kate Carroll is a fighter, a survivor, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a comedian. She is also appreciative of life, having survived two brain aneurysms and breast cancer.

“I’m much more grateful for every day,” she said. “I practice gratitude before I fall asleep, I think of something that made me happy during the day. Something I saw, something I did, something I heard, and I wake up smiling in the morning. Not only was my life threatened once, but three times.”

In 1997, the Bethel resident was operated on for a ruptured brain aneurysm. In 2000, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. And in 2003, she had a second surgery for a brain aneurysm.

“When you have a family like my family, your decisions are based on your family,” Carroll said. “And I wanted to show my daughters, especially, you need to stay strong to take care of yourself. I felt I was an example to them. I also felt a responsibility to my husband, and to my mother to do what I had to do so that we wouldn’t have to revisit this.”

She got the cancer diagnosis at the same time she found out she was going to be a grandmother for the first time, she said, “which gave me reason to fight, and to fight hard.”

“I chose radical treatment because I had had a brain aneurysm rupture . . . and I knew I had another one,” she said.

She and her husband moved from Atlanta to Boston, where she received treatment through Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“I had four tumors and they were all cancer but they were all tiny,” Carroll said. “They had not spread to the lymph nodes. Mine was caught very early – but I fought hard to come back from that brain surgery and I was angry and I was ready to fight.”

Once she was in remission and finished with chemotherapy, she and her family moved to Germany for 11 years.

“That really cemented our relationship and we had so much fun just exploring Europe together,” she said.

She summed up lessons she learned along the way, saying it’s not worth putting energy into being afraid; instead, use it to fight.

“You’re going to need it,” she said.

The most obvious lesson, though?

“Love your family,” she said.


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