Kathy Sundvold is a breast cancer survivor. But more importantly, she is a mom, wife, teacher, friend, sister and daughter.

“Breast cancer is way down at the end of that list,” Sundvold said. “But I’m a survivor and that’s an amazing thing to be.”

From the first time she met her medical team at the Edith Sanford Breast Center, they understood that Sundvold was more than just a patient, too.

They helped craft a treatment plan that worked for her and her family and allowed her to keep teaching choir at Memorial Middle School.

“It’s a very scary and vulnerable time for not only the patients but their families,” said Dr. Jesse Dirksen, Sundvold’s breast surgeon and the surgical director of the Edith Sanford Breast Center.

“I hope I’m able to comfort them, give them a clear understanding of what is going on with their bodies and what their treatment options are.”

That’s exactly what Dr. Dirksen has done for Sundvold and her family.

Sundvold was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma last July following her annual mammogram, and she met Dr. Dirksen for the first time shortly after.

She went to that appointment with her husband, Mark, and 14-year-old daughter, Madi. Dr. Dirksen explained what was going to happen and went through the treatment options, but then he did something Sundvold will never forget. He remembered that she is a mom before she is a cancer patient.

He turned his chair to her daughter and said, “What do you need to know?”

Madi responded, “Is my mom going to live?”

Dr. Dirksen looked straight at her and said, “Yep, she’s going to be around for the next 40 to 50 years.”

That was a changing point, Sundvold said, for both her and Madi.

“It was an amazingly positive experience for what we were going through at that time,” Sundvold said.

Just three weeks after her diagnosis, Sundvold underwent a bilateral mastectomy, which was later followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

She says she never took a sick day to recover from the treatments.

“I decided not to be sick,” Sundvold said, and that positivity helped her weather the chemotherapy better than some. “I’ve been really fortunate. I just want to advocate that a positive attitude is a huge part of getting through this.”

Sundvold finished chemotherapy in February, and after her last treatment, was met by signs, balloons and her former students in the Roosevelt High School choir singing the their old Memorial Middle School anthem. Dr. Dirksen rearranged his schedule to be there and support his patient.

Sundvold later completed radiation treatment and underwent a follow-up surgery this August.

Sundvold plans to continue telling her story and advocating for the Edith Sanford Breast Foundation and the medical team that has made such a difference in her life.

“The people who are taking care of me have become like family. It was like I'd known them forever and I could ask them anything,” she said.

She also hopes to become a lay navigator for newly diagnosed patients at the Edith Sanford Breast Center.

“There have been many more blessings that have come out of this journey than anyone can imagine,” Sundvold said. “When you face this diagnosis, a lot of people still see it as doom and gloom. You just need to take ahold of it like any other problem in life. Embrace it and then move forward. There’s no other option.”

Your gift will make a different for all the women, men and families who face this devastating diagnosis every day and rely on the Edith Sanford Breast Center for life-saving treatment. Join the fight this October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

When was your last mammogram?

Early detection saves lives. Schedule your mammogram today and encourage others to do the same. Breast screenings only take a few moments. A few moments may save a life.

Edith Sanford Breast Center Mission Statement: The mission of the Edith Sanford Breast Foundation is to unlock each woman’s genetic code, advance today’s prevention and treatment, and end breast cancer for future generations. We are committed to conducting groundbreaking research to find cures faster.

Please join us, and help create a tomorrow where no more of our loved ones are lost to this disease.


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