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“I refuse to be defined by my diagnosis – Karen Bucknall’s story

Karen Bucknall, 52, from Gloucestershire was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2021 after she sought an explanation for the headaches she was experiencing throughout her chemotherapy treatment for stage 3 bowel cancer.

Karen Bucknall is an inspirational woman with a complex medical history where her body produces tumours, both benign and cancerous.

Karen’s Story

In 2015 Karen had a hysterectomy after being diagnosed with large fibroids. In 2019 she was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer while she was part way through her sociology degree. And in 2021 Karen was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma– while having treatment for cancer.

Karen Bucknall close up photograph
Living with these health issues, including my brain tumour is all about learning to dance in the rain to your own beat. I like to jump in the puddles and make a big splash!” – Karen Bucknall

Karen’s tumour is currently stable and she has MRI scans each year to monitor it. She lives with the after effects of the tumour. It impacts her hearing and her ability to process sound – using headphones to listen to music is physically painful. Karen is also exploring the need for hearing aids in the not too distant future.

She describes it as though her “brain, ears and body are not connected.”

The tumour gives Karen balance and mobility issues. She often feels like there is a lot of pressure in her head.

Karen said: “It takes me a little bit longer to do things and take things in. My brain just seems to behave differently since my brain tumour diagnosis”.

Karen refuses to be defined by any of her diagnoses and she strives to raise awareness of hidden disabilities.

She has a very positive outlook despite her health problems. She strives to help others. And especially wants to raise awareness of brain tumours and help those living with chronic health issues with their confidence.

Beauty Pageants

To raise this awareness Karen enters beauty pageants, does modelling work and raises money for charities that are close to her heart. She is a trail blazer in the field. And her biggest aim is to promote self-confidence, self-esteem and positive body image.

Karen said: “The pageant world, my pageant journey and my pageant friends saved me. Winning pageant titles, awards, doing my charity public awareness and fundraising work is a chance for me to give something back to charities and the NHS. It also gives me purpose and I want to be a role model for those who are struggling with their health and wellbeing. I want to help to empower women and children and work with all the wonderful people I meet to raise awareness of invisible disabilities.

Karen works with The Kerri Parker Academy, a UK-based training school for models. Kerri Parker has an astrocytoma brain tumour. She and Karen became friends, empathetic in their brain tumour journey. They not only work closely together to make modelling more inclusive for those with diseases and disabilities, but support each other through their diagnoses.

Karen said: “I refuse to be defined by these illnesses. I have learned, that for me, that having cancer and a brain tumour isn’t the end. It is just the beginning of a new chapter that I could never have imagined.”

Karen Bucknall wearing a pink dress with a blue pageant sash. Holding a Miss Voluptuous magazine.
Pageant finalist 2022
Karen Bucknall with Kerri Parker at a beauty pageant.
Karen and Kerri Parker
Karen Bucknall wearing a rainbow colour sash that says "Classical Finalist Warrior Charity Pageant".
Karen as a pageant finalist 2023

Raising Awareness

Karen has chosen The Brain Tumour Charity to be one of her pageant charities to help raise more awareness of brain tumours.