Karen’s Cancer Journey: Finding the Good in a Bad Situation

Karen's Cancer Journey“It is a blessing that we have a place like the Northwest Wisconsin Cancer Center so close to us,” says Hayward, Wisconsin resident Karen Petrich. “When I received my breast cancer diagnosis, I started to cry. Your heart just sinks. But I always say that something good can come out of something bad, and I believe that is what happened to me.”

Last fall, Karen went in for her regularly scheduled mammogram. She had no lumps or signs of breast cancer—she felt fine.

“I had a 3D mammogram at Hayward Area Memorial Hospital and I really attribute that to finding my cancer,” says Karen. “After my mammogram, the radiologist came in to show me the picture of my breast and let me know that she had found something suspicious.”

The next step for Karen was to have a biopsy done to determine if the suspicious mass was cancer or not.

“I got the diagnosis the day before my husband and I were supposed to head out on a trip that we take each year to visit my aunts and cousins,” says Karen. “My primary care doctor called to tell me, ‘yes, they had found cancer.’ My mind immediately went to the worst place and I thought I should cancel our trip.”

Karen was diagnosed with stage 0 ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). This is when abnormal cells appear in the breast ducts. It’s possible for the cells to turn into invasive cancer, which means they can spread into healthy tissue.

Karen asked her doctor if she should postpone her trip and her doctor told her not to worry; she could go ahead and be with friends and family.

“I was still so concerned,” says Karen. “I wanted the cancer cells out as soon as possible and I didn’t think I would be able to relax and enjoy my vacation. What made all the difference to me was that the surgeon who was going to perform my lumpectomy, Dr. Vicentiu Andrew from the Essentia Health-Hayward Clinic, actually called me the next day and told me not to worry, he would see me as soon as I got back and treat me with all the care he would his daughter or wife.”

After her lumpectomy, Karen’s care team recommended she have her radiation done at Northwest Cancer Center in Ashland. They told Karen that the newest radiation technology was available at the cancer center. And that’s what made Karen decide on Northwest Cancer Center.

“It really hit me that I had cancer when I walked through the doors for my four weeks of radiation,” says Karen. “I was scared and nervous, but they took me through everything—one baby step at a time. I felt safe there, able to relax and sure that I would be okay.”

The caring, compassion and expertise of her cancer team—including both Dr. Mihailo Lalich and Dr. John Boyle—impressed her.

“Every question I had was answered—as well as every question my two daughters and my husband had,” says Karen. “The team was so welcoming and made me feel so at ease. I was glad I was going there and getting help. They always made time for me.”

The good that came out of Karen’s cancer diagnosis and journey is that she appreciates every day and takes joy in all the little things—her husband, her daughters, her grandchildren, traveling and her garden.

“Another good thing is I am living healthier,” says Karen. “I’ve lost 20 pounds, I am walking and eating well. I feel good.”

To learn more about the Northwest Wisconsin Cancer Center and its services, visit: northwestwisconsincancercenter.com.