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5 Things a Breast Cancer Survivor Wants You to Know

10-20-2016

Photo Caption: After four years of surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy, Kathy Iverson (pictured at left) is finally thriving with "no evidence of disease."

Photo Caption: After four years of surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy, Kathy Iverson (pictured at left) is finally thriving with "no evidence of disease."

Kathy Iverson Reflects on Her Personal Journey During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

To say that Kathy Iverson’s journey with breast cancer has been an uphill battle is no exaggeration. But four years (and several surgeries, a blood clot, port complications, radiation, and chemotherapy) later, Iverson is thriving with “no evidence of disease.”

The 59-year-old mother and avid bowler from Jefferson, Md., was diagnosed in March 2012. After a four-year battle with a disease that affects about 1 in 8 women over the course of their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society, there are five things she wants you to know about facing cancer head on.

1. Choose your treatment provider wisely.

After Iverson found a lump in her breast, her OB-GYN immediately referred her to the FMH Center for Breast Care, where she had a mammogram and met with Dr. Susan Bahl, an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician through Frederick Regional Health System (FRHS).

She did research on the hospital’s quality outcomes, and decided to stick with Frederick Memorial Hospital (FMH) for her biopsy and lumpectomy surgery in April. After several rounds of chemotherapy at another hospital, she returned to FMH for radiation treatment because of its professional, kind, and caring team.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of a good workout.

Studies show that eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, and sticking to a regular exercise plan helps to manage the side effects associated with cancer treatment and decreases the risk of cancer recurrence.

Iverson, who had gained 15 lbs. from her medications and needed to get the weight off, tried a medically supervised exercise plan offered through the FMH Fitness and Nutrition for Survivors (FANS) program. She found that the exercise helped her strength and energy levels, improved her morale, and gave her a chance to meet other survivors, too.

“I was able to get my strength back from side effects of my medicines,” she says. “Working with a staff of exercise physiologists and nurses helps, because they understand your limitations and modify all exercises for your needs.”

3. It’s about treating the cancer patient, not just the patient’s cancer.

“I appreciated an atmosphere that paid attention to what the patient is going through—treating not just my cancer but my emotional and spiritual wellbeing, too,” Iverson says.

Newer facilities, such as Frederick Regional Health System’s James M. Stockman Cancer Institute scheduled to open in summer 2017, often have dedicated space for complementary and integrative therapies, education, and community activities, too. Treatment facilities with healing colors or garden views can make all the difference to patients like Iverson.

“I think that gets lost along the way sometimes when you have cancer,” she says. “It’s nice to know there are other things to focus on to gain more comfort, privacy, and convenience.”

4. Find a higher standard of cancer care, close to home.

For Iverson, traveling outside of her home county for treatment was never an option. She commuted to Washington, D.C. for work in the past, and knew how strenuous that drive can be. It was certainly out of the question when she had cancer.

“It would have made the day longer than it already was,” she says. “I couldn’t imagine doing it after a day of chemotherapy or daily for six weeks of radiation treatments, and I wouldn’t want to.”

5. Don’t ever give up.

When Iverson first started her exercise program, she could barely walk half a mile. Today, she’s not only mobile, but she’s bowling again, back to work, and breezing through her exercises. And, more importantly, she’s able to enjoy time with the people who matter most—her family.

“My hair was just long enough that I didn’t have to wear a wig to my daughter’s wedding in April 2013, and now I’m going to be a grandmother in January!" she says. "That was my prayer—I really wanted to see my grandchildren and be able to hold them. I get to go with her to her sonogram appointment this month, and we can do all the things that other mothers and daughters do.”

To hear more cancer survivor stories or to schedule an appointment for oncology services, visit www.fmh.org/cancercare or call 301-418-6465.

Categories: Women's Health, Cancer