Katie Marshall lives by the motto: Do as much as you can, not as little as you can. She's friendly, hardworking and never gives up. And she's so very grateful that her caregivers at The Christ Hospital live this way too.
Katie, age 46, is a business manager for two radio stations, Classic Country 106.7 and 105.9 FM. She lives with her husband, daughter and at least three rescue dogs. In November 2018, breast cancer crashed into their lives. A radiologist detected what looked like tiny grains of sand on Katie's mammogram. It was noninvasive ductal carcinoma—the cells that line the milk ducts in the breast were cancerous, but they had not yet spread into surrounding tissue.
"It was a miracle! How do you see cancer in those tiny grains?" wonders Katie. "My radiologist did a really good job. And because I had all my mammograms at The Christ Hospital, they were able to see tiny changes on my film. I was blessed."
Not so fast—more cancer lurked
In Katie's true, "do all you can, not as little as you can" spirit, she decided to get several opinions about treatment. A doctor at another hospital told her she could get a lumpectomy and be done with it.
But, at The Christ Hospital, a surgical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer was suspicious and took time to talk with Katie, consider her family medical history, and request an MRI for Katie.
"She was wonderful. She really listened," remembers Katie. "She didn't like that my mom died of uterine cancer at 64. And my grandmother died of lung cancer at 74.
Another scary breast cancer was hiding on my chest wall by my heart," says Katie. "The other doctor would never have found that. She would have done a lumpectomy, and I would have thought I was fine."
Shocked by the news and creating a plan to fight cancer
The cancer on Katie's chest wall was HER2 positive. It was caught at stage one, but it was grade three—an aggressive form of an aggressive cancer.
"I was never an overachiever at anything, and in this I decided to be," laughs Katie.
She jokes now, but she'll never forget the moment she heard the news:
"I didn't know what to do, so I handed the phone to my husband. I just sat on the edge of the jacuzzi tub. It was hard to process," remembers Katie. "It's the most lost feeling, but I found great doctors at The Christ Hospital."
Katie was in shock, but she met with her care team, including Robert Cody, MD, a medical oncologist. Together he and her surgical oncologist created a care plan. Katie would do chemotherapy first and then consider mastectomy or lumpectomy.
"They were wonderful, so knowledgeable," says Katie.
Two weeks after diagnosis, Katie had a port put in her chest and got to work. From January 2019 to January 2020, she had 18 chemotherapy treatments. Since she had an aggressive cancer, she chose the most aggressive treatment.
"You put on a warrior face," says Katie. "You learn as much as you can about this cancer, and you kick its butt."
What Katie loved most about her care team
As Katie started the fight for her life, The Christ Hospital Cancer Centers at the Mt. Auburn campus team took phenomenal care of her.
"Cancer patients park in a special garage underneath the center," says Katie. "You walk right into the cancer center. Since you're immunocompromised, you're never around the general public."
Little things made a difference—people doing as much as they can, not as little as they can.
For example, her infusion nurse warned her about what to expect after certain chemo medications—and armed her with helpful solutions.
"One chemo gave me horrible mouth sores. But if I ate popsicles or ice chips during the infusion, the mouth sores didn't get as bad," remembers Katie.
Several days after chemo, other side effects kicked in too.
"On Friday, my first day of chemo, I had lots of energy. On Saturday and Sunday, I still felt pretty good. Then, on Monday, it was like someone hit you with a Mack truck," remembers Katie. "I was often sick the rest of the week. You feel like you have the flu and stomach bug at the same time."
Again, Cancer Center nurses helped her manage.
"They recommended I come in and get fluids. It perks you up and helps with the nausea," says Katie. "Some days, the nurses had to come and get me from my car and put me in a wheelchair."
And while Katie was there, the nurses would stop and look at Facebook pictures with her and laugh and make her laugh too.
Personalized care for Katie—and her family
For support, Katie's husband went to all her chemo infusions. When he brought a laptop, the staff offered him a rolling cart for his workspace. And if he needed to make phone calls, they offered him a room for privacy.
"How sweet was that! My husband was in a scary situation too and didn't know what was going to happen," says Katie. "But the nurses and staff would chat with him as they took my vitals and made him feel at ease. And they also treated my daughter very well. We didn't feel like a number."
Katie also loved Tracy, who brought in therapy dogs that sat on her lap and reminded her of home. And Tina, who offered meditation and extra pillows to help her relax. And cheerful Nurse Holly who gave her care packages. And the volunteers who brought her pink socks or cross necklaces.
Making tough decisions
After six months of chemo, Katie's doctors gave her the option of lumpectomy with radiation or a mastectomy without radiation. Katie chose a double-mastectomy.
"A mastectomy would increase my survival rate by 5%," says Katie. "Well, that's 5% in my favor. Every little percent counts when it comes to your life. And you have just one chance of getting this right. I wanted to see my daughter graduate and I wanted to be a grandma. Everyone has their own journey, and this was mine."
Katie did as much as she could to get better. And she trusted the information from her doctors.
"We are so blessed to have such a fabulous hospital with advanced technology," says Katie.
Do as much as you can
After surgery, Katie had six more months of chemotherapy. On her last day, her nurses dressed in pink and threw her a party.
"I have so much gratitude for all these people," says Katie. "They've seen it all, and they get you through a terrible time in your life. They're like family."
Now, Katie's thriving. And she goes back to the Cancer Center every three months for checkups.
"Nobody wants to have cancer. But hey, if you have it, you put on your big girl pants and go fight. You do as much as you can, and not as little as you can."
And the people at The Christ Hospital will do all they can too—and support you every step of the way.
Learn more about the advanced treatments and personalized care you can receive at The Christ Hospital Cancer Care Centers to fight breast cancer.