At just 31 years old, and in the middle of planning her wedding, breast cancer was the last thing on Katie DeBower’s mind. But as the big day was approaching, she felt a lump, and knowing her family history, she couldn’t help but think it may be cancer. “My grandmother had cancer, my mom had cancer and I just had some really uneasy feelings,” she said.
Fast forward to the night before the wedding at their rehearsal dinner, Katie could still feel the lump. “It was just really bothering me now that we were going to start our new life together,” she said. Katie talked to her mom that night asked her to schedule an appointment for her while she was away on her honeymoon.
Once she returned, Katie went to see her primary care provider, Dr. Melissa Kahler at UnityPoint Clinic Family Medicine – Westdale. Dr. Kahler ordered an ultrasound which came back suspicious. They followed up with a mammogram that confirmed Katie had Invasive Lobular Carcinoma In Situ.
After learning of her diagnosis, Katie spoke to her care coordinator Mona Cook. As care coordinator, Mona was Katie’s constant point of contact. Assessing Katie’s needs and setting up referrals within the cancer care team. “Mona got everything set up with the whole team. So I had appointments with my oncologist, surgeon and plastic surgeon on the calendar,” said Katie.
Katie’s surgeon, Dr. Kerri Nowell at Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa, recommended a bilateral mastectomy. She had surgery about a month after her diagnosis and is now fully healthy. Following her operation, Matt Schmitz, cancer exercise specialist, worked with her to create a plan to regain her strength. She also did genetic testing with Julie Thompson, genetics nurse practitioner, where she learned she does not carry any genetic abnormality.
Katie’s message to readers is simple: Know your body. “If you have any sort of inkling something doesn’t seem right, no matter your age, seek out your medical doctor immediately,” she said. “Never talk yourself out of seeing your doctor because of fear of overreacting or thinking you are too young to have cancer.”
She also appreciated how coordinated care made the journey easier and gave her a built-in support system. “The coordinated care put me at ease because I knew I had a good team, all in the same place, there to support me.”
To learn more about breast cancer care at the Nassif Community Cancer Center, visit communitycancercenter.org/breast.