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Kathleen Bailey: Raising Your Voice

Kathleen Bailey

“I want others to know that light and life lay ahead, that it’s not the end of anything. It’s just the beginning of their journey.”

Kathleen Bailey
Breast Cancer

If positivity could be bottled and sold, Kathleen Bailey would be a wealthy woman. She has spent much of her adult life caring for her many close, yet ailing family members. But even her irrepressible spirit was dampened by the results of a routine mammogram in 2016.

When a biopsy of an unusual spot on Kathleen’s left breast came back positive for cancer, she was placed under the care of cancer care specialists Dr. Ronald Kerr, a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–Medical City Dallas, and Dr. Alison Laidley, a surgical oncologist at Texas Breast Specialists–Dallas. In fall of 2016, she underwent three lumpectomies. In each case, however, the margins always came back positive. 

Additional testing revealed not one but two types of cancer: stage 1A lobular breast cancer (LBCA) infiltrating and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) — the earliest stage of cancer affecting the lining of the milk ducts. She also tested HER2-negative, estrogen receptor positive, meaning these cancerous cells were susceptible to receiving signals from estrogen that could promote their growth. In layman’s terms, Kathleen says, her two cancers were “like a spider web with a fly caught inside.”

Treatment required the removal of her left breast, but Kathleen feared that cancer would come back in the right breast. She asked for a double mastectomy instead. Her doctors discussed the pros and cons of her request to ensure she fully understood the implications. In the end, they supported her decision.

During her mastectomy, Kathleen’s doctors discovered pre-cancerous cells in her right breast, confirming her earlier fears. Kathleen’s decision to pursue a double mastectomy spared her additional surgery, as chances were good that those cells would have developed into cancer.

Kathleen says she would like other women to know what she learned through that experience — that they can and should take a more active role in their cancer treatment. “You have a voice,” she says, “and you need to ask questions and be assertive.”

Fortunately, Kathleen did not need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation. However, she still faced breast reconstruction using the DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) flap technique, a three-stage surgical procedure in which surgeons take skin and tissue from the abdomen to recreate the breasts.

As painful as her recovery was, Kathleen considers the entire experience the best thing she ever did. She now works out four times a week at a local gym that specializes in providing therapy for recovering cancer patients. She also works with Dr. Laidley to “pay it forward” and reassure others facing the fears of cancer surgery through various volunteer initiatives. 

“I want to ease their anxiety by showing them that when it’s all over, their appearance really will not have changed very much at all,” Kathleen says. “I want others to know that light and life lay ahead, that it’s not the end of anything. It’s just the beginning of their journey.”   

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.