On the Other Side

Skip McDonald authored this tribute to her friend and spiritual daughter, Karen Clark.

Karen Clark was planning to write this blog post about being on the other side of nursing as a patient with cancer. A 17-year breast cancer survivor, mother of three grown sons, sibling, newlywed, oncology charge nurse, daughter, sister, she was also my friend.

Two months after Karen was married, she got the devastating news that she had stage four pancreatic cancer with metastasis to her liver. We all were devastated. She fought hard to live. She had lots to live for. She endured long hours of traditional and non-traditional treatment. 

Even after her cancer diagnosis and start of chemo, she went back to her duties as an oncology nurse for several weeks. 

Eventually Karen stopped working to focus on treatment. Nine months after her diagnosis, she passed away. Words can't describe the loss her family, friends, and I felt when Karen Diane Clark went to heaven. 

So why do I write about Karen? I had been in her life for 31 years, with most of those years as her mentor and spiritual mom. I am Auntie Skip to her three handsome boys. 

Karen loved well and was a gift to her oncology unit. At her celebration of life, two rows of colleagues showed up to pay their respects. This is what Julie had to say about working with Karen:

“Karen's life mission and goal in nursing was to provide care, healing and comfort to those going through the same cancer journey that she had once traveled herself. She shared with many of us that her calling to Oncology was a result of her battle with cancer. Very early in our friendship, she shared with me about her own fight with breast cancer when her boys were very young. She was scared of the unknown and not sure how she was going to get through the chemotherapy and radiation treatments ahead of her except to place her total trust in God. During her final scan after treatments, she told the radiologist that if God brought her through this, she was going to dedicate her life to nursing and caring for others that were fighting this disease.” 

Grace shared this:

“Karen's presence was always soothing, for her patients and her fellow nurses. I always felt a little safer and more calm when she was around. She moved and spoke with such poise. There was never a skill that she couldn't do. She loved helping her fellow nurses with difficult  tasks and she never left work until she had finished her duties and finished helping other nurses with their's. I remember watching her with several different patients- she would hold their hands, comfort them and find a way to get them to laugh during their hardest days. She would pray with them when they felt they were losing faith. She would hug the family members when they couldn't bare seeing their loved ones suffer. She also encouraged her fellow nurses when working in oncology became overwhelming.”

As an outstanding nurse, Karen received the "Daisy" award in 2016 while working in cardiac telemetry at Wellstar Douglas hospital. Nurses are nominated by anyone in the organization: patients, family members, other nurses, physicians, other clinicians and staff--anyone who experiences or observes extraordinary compassionate care being provided by a nurse. Then in 2018, Karen was nominated for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution Nurse of The Year Award.

Now plans are underway to create a memorial in her honor at the hospital where she served. The memorial will be "Karen's Sanctuary." If you would like, you may give in her honor directly to the Kennestone Hospital General Purpose fund with a restriction to “Karen Vaughan Clark Memorial Oncology Project.”

  1. Visit Wellstar.org/give
  2. Click on “tribute” and enter Karen’s information
  3. Select or designate the gift to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital and type in the comment box, “Karen Vaughan Clark Memorial Oncology Project”

This poem Karen wrote gives a glimpse of her walk with Jesus. I cherish the many hard and encouraging conversations that we had over those nine months of her battle. My life will be forever changed by hers.

God is Great!

My God is great! Yes, He is good!

He loves me like no other could.

When nights are long and without end;

He’s the presence on which I can depend.

When friends cause pain and do depart,

He gently mends my broken heart.

In times when solace does run and hide,

He’s ever present by my side.

He gives me hope when mine is gone,

He lends me strength to carry on.

He binds my wounds; He heals my pains.

He always listens; never complains.

He guides my eyes with the purest of light.

He calms my fears; He holds me tight.

He provides for daily, my every need.

He calls me in, in Him only, to succeed.

He imparts my dreams, my missions to fill;

He promises me victory in His will.

He says He loves me; I know tis true.

He gave His son for me and you!

He bore my cross, the scars of my nails.

His love for me…it never fails!

Even when my days on Earth grow dim,

I will ever louder sing to Him.

My God, you’re great! Yes, You are good!

Thank you for loving me like no other could.

Skip McDonald has been an RN for 45 years and on InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff for 28 years. She has a strong desire to help others obtain and maintain mental and emotional health. Skip enjoys reading, worship fitness and writing. 

A mentoring relationship, such as Skip had with Karen, is a Scriptural and professional privilege. Learn more about mentoring and consider being a mentor on the Resources page of the NCF website.



What a beautiful tribute, Skip! No one could have done it better. Karen’s life on Earth was and is truly an inspiration to those of us who know the Lord‘s peace, guidance, and Love. For those who don’t, her life was and is a great example of what is possible through Jesus Christ. Continue to be her voice. I know it will make her so happy.

Thank you Kelly for your very kind remarks. I will seek to carry well her legacy!

I didn’t know Karen, but loved reading the tributes and the poem she wrote. Truly, the life she lived is speaking for her.

Thank you Regina!

Skip, thank you so much for the wonderful tribute to your spiritual daughter, Karen. I remember a number of occasions when I would see her at your events, with her beautiful smile, supportive of Mama Skip. May God continue to comfort you and her family.

Thank you Felicia. She knew who you were :-)

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