Cancer touches the lives of many people, and Kelly is no exception. A routine women's exam earlier this year led to a double mastectomy, but along the way Kelly met amazing people who made her journey much easier.
"I think my story is pretty typical," she says. "I went in for a routine women's exam, and Leanne True, the physician's assistant, told me that my breast looked odd and I should go have it checked."
These simple words led Kelly to Via Christi Clinic at Murdock, where she had both a mammogram and a biopsy on Jan. 24. The next day, the phone rang and Scott Hane, MD, Kelly's primary care physician, gave her the diagnosis: "Kelly, I have bad news. It's cancer."
The diagnosis propelled Kelly and her husband Bill on a journey guided by a team of Via Christi Clinic surgeons, nurses and other support personnel. She underwent three surgeries between February and July at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis and was cared for by a team that included breast surgeon Patty Tenofsky, MD, reconstructive surgeon Ken Schoonover, MD, oncologist Pavan Reddy, MD, and breast center coordinator/nurse navigator Terri Peters, BSN.
"I would say that God has his angels on earth. What these people do is truly a calling. Dr. Tenofsky was both compassionate and skilled," said Kelly, a French teacher at Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School in Wichita.
Cancer has been a huge presence in Kelly's life - her father currently battles lung cancer while her aunts and uncles have lost their lives to other types of cancer. "I always knew I would get cancer," Kelly said, "but I always thought it would be later in life." Fortunately, her two brothers and her sister have been cancer-free.
Following the cancer diagnosis, Kelly said, Terri Peters provided invaluable help, as she does for all her patients, as the nurse navigator - guiding Kelly and her husband Bill through the maze of follow up testing, surgery, and more surgery.
"Terri was critical to my care," Kelly said. "She began by giving me a layman's explanation of the cancer, using charts and graphs, which was very helpful. She then made herself completely available for any questions any time, even giving me her personal cell phone number. My husband interfaced with her on almost a daily basis. Terri arranged all the tests, and ensured that I got the results in a timely manner. She made sure I understood every step of the procedures."
Kelly emphasized the critical role played by the nurse navigator. "Honestly, she was, logistically, equally as important as the surgeon because so many tests had to be coordinated. My husband probably emailed her once a day. I had weekly follow ups, and Terri would always bounce in and give me a smile and a hug."
Nurse navigator, Terri Peters, BSN, talks with Kelly about her options.
Kelly's journey included a vast array of diagnostic tests-tests to determine if the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, tests for the aggressive breast cancer gene (DNA testing) , and tests to see if the cancer had spread elsewhere in her body.
"Dr. Tenofsky was very informative, compassionate, and patient," Kelly said. "She did an excellent job of putting things into lay terms without skimping on data. Even though I made the decisions, she gave me all of the data so that I could make the most informed decisions under the circumstances, which was a huge gift."
Based on all the test results, Kelly made the difficult decision to have both breasts removed and then undergo reconstructive surgery. Three surgeries followed: Lymph node surgery on Feb. 10; the double mastectomy on Feb. 17; and reconstructive surgery on July 12.
As Kelly looks back on the most difficult six months of her life, she reaches some startling conclusions. "My husband was willing to go anywhere for any length of time to get me the best care in the world. After we did our research, we discovered that world class cancer treatment specialists were right here in Wichita."
Kelly then grows quiet; she cannot find enough words to express her thanks for the medical team that helped her through this ordeal.
She said Dr. Schoonover, after a dozen visits, still makes himself available at any time. Dr. Tenofsky educated Kelly and rearranged her surgery schedule to accommodate Kelly's necessary operations, she said. And, equally important, she noted that both Dr. Schoonover's and Dr. Tenofsky's staffs were accessible, knowledgeable and supportive.
Five weeks after her double mastectomy, Kelly returned to the classroom to finish the 2010-2011 school year. She was fully recovered from the reconstructive surgery in July when school began for the 2011-2012 year.
Asked what advice she would share with other women, Kelly said: "Number one, get regular mammograms. That's the best advice I can give. Number two, stay positive. And number three, don't be afraid to ask other people for help. You cannot do it alone."