Kate Doty is originally from Chicago, Illinois and now lives in North Port.
When were you diagnosed and at what age?
September 2005 at age 57.
What kind of treatment did you receive?
I had a lumpectomy and radiation.
What was the most challenging part of your experience?
People who get breast cancer are at increased risk for colon cancer, as well. I did not have transportation, so I did not get the colonoscopy procedure recommended by my doctor. Finally, she mentioned a new fecal sample kit that checked for changes in DNA associated with cancer and I agreed to do that.
The test came back positive for abnormal DNA, but before I could get a colonoscopy, I ended up in the emergency room on Christmas Day 2016 with abdominal pain and a fever that was not responding to antibiotics. The ER diagnosed me with diverticulitis with an abscess on the colon. The underlying infection was not responding to the antibiotics in the hospital either. I continued to get worse until they operated to put a drain on the abscess.
They sent me home with the drain still attached a couple of days later and an order for home health care to help care for the drain. I had to learn to navigate the Medicare HMO (health maintenance organization) system, which is a lot different than just showing up for your preventative care appointments.
In April 2017, I had an operation to repair a narrowing of the colon caused by the diverticulitis. They found cancer had broken through the colon wall and spread to an ovary. I recovered quickly from the surgery, and started chemotherapy for six months.
It was horrible. I got every side effect listed on the medication disclosures and a few new ones. My oncologist listened to me and made adjustments in my treatment to help me tolerate it. He could see when my resolve was wavering and would gently remind me I was at high risk for the cancer to return and encouraged me to complete the full course of treatment.
I completed the chemo in January 2018 but was broken. I was so weak, I could not open a bottle of water without pliers. I have nerve damage (neuropathy) in my hands and feet. I could not manipulate buttons or zippers. It was a struggle to get on a step stool to reach my upper kitchen cabinets.
Where did you find the greatest support?
My husband was my biggest support. I also began swimming lessons in March 2018 and started regaining some strength.
Then in July, I retired and joined Survivors in Sync (SIS), which has been a life changer. SIS gives me goals, exercise and, most importantly, a supportive social network. I have reinvented myself in retirement and become, for the first time in my life, an athlete, thanks to SIS.
What advice would you share with others?
Get mammograms regularly as advised by your doctor. That is what saved me. I have no family history of breast cancer but I was in an HMO and went for the mammogram as my doctor recommended. It was an aggressive cancer but they found it early.