As a nurse who has worked many years in a pediatric office, Kathy Hummel is picky about her health care and diligent about monitoring her health, having undergone regular mammograms every year at the OSUCCC – James for the past several years.
In March 2012, she felt a lump during a regular breast self-examination. After a diagnostic mammogram and core biopsy, her doctors at the OSUCCC – James confirmed that she had breast cancer.
Her treatment team wasted no time planning and executing Kathy’s treatment. By the end of that same month, she had met her surgical oncologist, reconstructive plastic surgeon and medical oncologist. By the first week of April, she had started her first round of chemotherapy.
“I was impressed with the speed at which this whole thing got rolling,” she said.
Kathy’s breast cancer required a mastectomy because of its location near the nipple and the fact that the tumor had grown rapidly into a stage II cancer. She completed her chemotherapy treatment on August 15, five months after her breast cancer diagnosis, and her mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery was scheduled for October 1.
The day of the surgery, Kathy’s lymph nodes were analyzed as negative for cancer, so her treatment team moved right from the mastectomy into the reconstruction. She was in the operating room for hours, she said, but both the mastectomy and breast reconstruction were done in one day.
“I woke up 13 hours later and I had a breast,” Kathy said. “So I never saw the structure without it.”
Even now, Kathy said she remains amazed at the results of her reconstructive surgery. Using microsurgery techniques, the preeminent method of reconstructive surgery, and some fat from her abdomen, the OSUCCC – James plastic surgeons reconstructed a breast that “looks and feels so real.” Using a special technique, they “built” a new nipple on her reconstructed breast, which Kathy had cosmetically tattooed to look as natural as possible.
“It really is amazing,” she said.
Kathy said she chose the OSUCCC – James because she knew she would receive excellent, comprehensive care. She was able to place her trust in her care team and “just get on the train,” she said, using an analogy she often employs when talking to others about the emotional roller coaster of a breast cancer diagnosis and the treatment process.
“I was instrumental in making decisions about my own care with advice from people and thoughtful consideration,” Kathy said. “Once I made the decision, I did not look back or second-guess anything. I just got on the train.”
Kathy said she knew her part was to take good care of herself with exercise and eating right, but not to worry or overinvestigate her disease or care, even with her medical background.
“I just felt like they were the professionals and I ceded to them,” she said. “All of them were tremendous.”