You could say that a phone call Katie Weber received from Fairview saved her life.
Katie, a busy 37-year-old mom who previously had a benign cyst in one of her breasts, found another lump. Keeping an eye on it, Katie saw her doctor and the doctor ordered a mammogram.
But weeks went by. The order was waiting. That's when a Fairview scheduling agent took it upon herself to call Katie and schedule the mammogram in late December.
“I went from happy holidays to a mammogram screening, an ultrasound, and a biopsy, all within 24 hours,” Katie recalls. “Saying it was a whirlwind is an understatement.”
It was just the beginning of the whirlwind, due to a tumor that Katie would name “Bertha”.
"After the mammogram, the tech asked if I could take a seat in the waiting room as she ordered an ultrasound for a few more pictures," Katie recalls. "I thought it was all routine. That ultrasound tech had one heck of a poker face. But when she left the room to get a doctor to take a look, I had a bad feeling."
Still in a holiday fog, Katie couldn’t quite get her head wrapped around what was happening.
"The radiologist read the images and said that the lump was abnormally and irregularly shaped,” Katie recalls. “And then he said the most dreaded words in the English language: 'I believe you have cancer.' ”
"After the doctor had left the room, the tech sat there with me — holding my hand — and said I could sit there as long as I needed. I was in shock."
A needle biopsy was ordered for the next morning and a few days later Katie learned the tumor was malignant.
“My care team didn’t mess around," Katie says. "Within a week of the biopsy, I met with a surgeon, had an MRI, and scheduled an appointment with my oncologist.”
Mammograms save lives
Regular screening mammograms play an important role in detecting cancer early, when it’s the most treatable. Mammograms can show changes in breast tissue up to two years before a patient or care provider can feel them.
The American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging recommend that women get yearly mammograms starting at the age of 40 — even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer. If you notice any changes in your breast tissue regardless of your age, like in Katie’s case, contact your doctor.
“The screening mammogram only takes minutes,” says Kevin Leach, MD, Director of Radiology at Fairview Lakes. "But it can be a life saver."
Many decades of research show that women who have regular mammograms are more likely to detect breast cancer early, less likely to need aggressive treatment, and more likely to be cured.
Time to fight
Katie started 16 rounds of chemotherapy at University of Minnesota Health Lakes Cancer Clinic at Fairview Lakes Medical Center, including four rounds of what she called the "red devil."
"One of my chemo drugs was literally red in color. It was nasty and it made me really sick, so I nicknamed it the red devil. But it did what it was supposed to. It shrunk Bertha the tumor and her 'babies' Hilda and Gilda that were found in my lymph nodes."
During a round of chemo, Katie had a severe allergic reaction and went into anaphylactic shock.
“I couldn’t breathe and it felt like someone was standing on my chest,” Katie recalls. “I was so impressed with how quickly my oncology nurses responded; they were like a well-oiled machine. Things could have turned out so differently.”
Katie's dad, her chemo buddy, was there to witness it all. But the fast-acting, expert team had him covered, too.
“A nurse was caring for me, and a nurse was caring for and comforting my dad."
Road to recovery
After chemo, three surgeries, and 33 successful radiation treatments, it was Katie’s turn to ring the bell — a tradition for cancer patients signifying their treatment is over and, in Katie's case, Bertha was gone.
This past summer marked Katie’s one-year anniversary of being cancer-free. To commemorate it, she planted a "survivor tree" in her yard.
“I’m going to watch this tree grow big and strong,” Katie says. “It will be a reminder of how far I’ve come and how hard I fought.”
Katie is back to where she left off: working her normal schedule, running her kids around to school activities, and she just participated in her first 5K — a goal she made when she was first diagnosed.
“Here I am, living my life; my old sassy self, but this time even sweeter,” Katie says. “It’s almost like someone opened a door and said, ‘Welcome back to your life, Katie.' Every single day is a gift, and I can’t wait to unwrap it.”
To schedule a mammogram, choose from one of these locations.