Rockport resident fights cancer for fifth timeKay Warren uses illness as opportunity to inspire others
Rockland — Kay Warren of Rockport has remained active despite living with debilitating illnesses. Diagnosed with cancer for the fifth time, Warren is hopeful and wants others facing illness to feel inspirited by her perseverance.
Warren was the coronation chairman of the Lobster Festival Sea Princesses for 20 years, ending her tenure in 2007.
Warren has fond memories of working with the pageant contestants. "I never had children, so they all seemed like my girls," she said. During her tenure as coronation chairman, she was christened "Mama Kay."
"It was quite an experience," she said. Warren is proud of the pageant, and said it creates opportunities for women in the area and has enabled winners to continue their education.
Warren herself was not a pageant contestant in her home state of Ohio. "I grew up in a town of 1,100 people, we didn't have anything like that," she said.
Warren, who turned 70 in June, still corresponds with some of the former princesses and she attends each coronation. She misses being involved with the festival but said she would be unable to continue her former responsibilities.
"You have to give and take," she said.
An only child, Warren felt restless and sheltered in Ohio and relocated to Washington, D.C., where she met her husband, David, an Islesboro native. When the couple returned to Maine, Warren told her husband they would live on the mainland. "I wouldn't live on an island," she said. "After 5 p.m., you couldn't get off that island. That would drive me crazy."
Warren was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in the early '90s; the disease returned twice more before the cancer was in remission for 15 years. In 2008 and again in early 2012, she was diagnosed with lymphoma. When told of her illness, she said, "I can't, I'm having a great-granddaughter born in June and I have to be here for her."
Her great-granddaughter, Hayden, who lives out of state, was born July 3 and Warren hopes to meet her soon.
"All along when I've had cancer, I thought, I just want to live and I know I can do it," she said. "My body's held up, I'm still kicking."
Warren talks candidly about her illness and treatment. "I know people can get through it, they just have to talk to somebody." She is hopeful for her own recovery and for others diagnosed with cancer. When she was first diagnosed she said, "I threw pots and pans. You have to go through the stages and then fight for your life."
Chemotherapy and radiation have been physically trying for Warren. "I lost my hair once, and I wore caps. I wasn't going to let people see me with a bald head and I certainly didn't want to see my bald head," she said.
Warren said she doesn't care for cooking, but concern for her health has encouraged her to spend more time in the kitchen. She collects cookbooks despite her disinclination in culinary pursuits and describes herself as a "shopaholic."
Reading and shopping help Warren take her mind off the illness and treatments. She also enjoys traveling. Favorite trips include the Caribbean, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Warren said she would like to visit Alaska, making it the 42nd state she has visited, although she said she won't try to visit all 50 states.
Warren is also politically active, saying that when she was employed as a secretary in the Federal Communications Commission office, she was not allowed to express her political leanings. "I'm the only one in my area to put [political] signs out," she said. Warren said she was looking forward to getting a Romney sign.
Warren was also president of the Maine Women's Club — a service organization — for two years and served with the Camden section. She was sick during her involvement and said she hopes people, despite illness, do what they can.
Today, she is concentrating on her recovery and is certain somebody is looking out for her. "It's not my time to go yet," she said.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at JLaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.