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Hillsborough Woman Fights Cancer Through Art

January 6, 2011
For Karen Haake of Hillsborough, the battle against cancer has involved chemotherapy, radiation therapy and, most of all, art. 

“I’m an artist. I love to paint. This is what keeps me going,” says Haake, who is undergoing treatment for cervical cancer at Somerset Medical Center’s Steeplechase Cancer Center in Somerville.

A collection of her art was recently displayed at the Albrook School in Basking Ridge where Haake formerly worked as an art teacher.
Despite the fatigue she has endured as a result of her treatments, Haake always makes time for her art. She prefers working with watercolors, pastels and pen and ink and her subjects range from portraits and scenic landscapes to floral designs, stressing vibrant color and detail. 

“When I worked on my paintings during my illness, the details in my artwork meant much more to me. It was therapeutic to capture everything! Details in my life mean much more to me as well,” she says.

Nancy Cullinan, oncology social worker at The Steeplechase Cancer Center, saw Haake’s art and reached out to Sandy Ruda of the Somerset County Arts Association to see if she could help arrange for a local exhibit of Haake’s work. Ruda contacted The Albrook School, which has an art gallery and recently featured flags made by cancer patients for Somerset Medical Center’s Day of Hope.

“At the Steeplechase Cancer Center, we place a great emphasis on the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of people living with cancer,” Cullinan said. “We must consider the whole person living in the context of the disease. Every aspect of the patient’s life is affected by the cancer diagnosis and is addressed. In this case, it was a tremendous emotional boost for Karen to have her artwork on display and it helped her get through her cancer treatment.” 

“I haven’t had my artwork displayed in a while, so the exhibit was a great honor for me in many ways during such a difficult time,” Haake said.

The Steeplechase Cancer Center at Somerset Medical Center, which opened in 2007, offers comprehensive outpatient cancer care services, including the Sanofi-aventis U.S. Breast Care Program, radiation therapy, infusion therapy, oncologists’ and surgeons’ offices, complementary medicine services, clinical research studies and the Sanofi-aventis U.S. Wellness Boutique. For more information, visit