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Karen Thomas: Powering Through Cancer, One Step At A Time

Publication: Austin American-Statesman

Karen Thomas, known to friends and family as K.T., has always been serious about preventive health care and leading an active lifestyle. She’s an avid cyclist and power walker. Now retired and in her 70s, K.T. continues the regular mammogram schedule she’s maintained for nearly 50 years without incident.

But this year’s annual exam in January included addressing unusual discomfort she was feeling. The diagnosis: stage I breast cancer. K.T. instantly knew her strategy for coping with cancer. She would continue, to fullest extent possible, her very active routine. As she had done throughout her life, K.T. was intent on powering through her cancer journey.

K.T.’s Stage IA, estrogen receptor positive, HER2 positive breast cancer was aggressive. Her doctor referred her to Texas Oncology—Round Rock, where K.T. says she found top-notch care.

After living in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas for years, K.T. was accustomed to having highly talented healthcare teams and world-renowned hospitals nearby. From experience, she recognizes high-quality healthcare when she sees it. For K.T., the experience at Texas Oncology has been on par with the outstanding healthcare available in the nation’s capital.

“I have been very pleased and impressed,” said K.T. “In comparison to the medical field in D.C. and Baltimore, I have found Texas Oncology to be equal here in Austin. Not only is everyone so talented, they are also passionate and dynamic.”

“Cancer is daunting and intimidating, and I felt a sense of hopelessness. But my doctors are enthusiastic, confident and engaging. They include me in the process, and I like that they have a plan. There is no guessing.”

Under the care of Dr. Michelle Ashworth of Texas Oncology–Round Rock, K.T. underwent surgery and elected to also participate in chemotherapy and HER2-targeted therapy to maximize her chances of avoiding a relapse.

“Dr. Ashworth is just an exquisite human being,” said K.T. “Her demeanor is like that of a research scientist—she can turn on a dime to provide patients with information and data. But she’s also vibrant and caring, which puts a smile on my face.”

For Dr. Ashworth, the admiration is mutual.

“To know K.T. is to feel the power and warmth of her incredibly loving and inclusive personality,” says Dr. Ashworth. “She is a very smart, self-determined patient. She is appreciative of discussion and the data behind her treatment recommendations. She has gone out of her way to make my entire staff feel valued, and treating her has been a wonderful experience for all of us.”

Best of all, K.T. has a positive outlook and is in excellent health.

“K.T. has tolerated treatment well so far,” said Dr. Ashworth. “My hope is that she will be able to put this health episode behind her, get back to time with her family and friends, and continue to thrive and brighten the world with her verve and spirit.”

To those who know her, K.T.’s “verve and spirit” comes naturally from her energetic personality and active lifestyle. Although her path changed course earlier this year, she hasn’t lost a step.

“I walk very fast,” says K.T. “My son always says, ‘Mom, why don’t you just go ahead and jog?’ And I still love to ride my bike and hike in the woods, especially when family visits.”

Keeping up with her regular activities has made an enormous impact on K.T.’s journey by giving her a sense of stability and normalcy.

“Staying close to my routine as much as possible has made it more bearable,” said K.T. “After a breast cancer diagnosis, you are on such an unexpected trajectory in your life, and it’s important to keep a familiar routine so you don’t feel out of control. That’s why I make sure to keep up my activities, even if it’s modified.”

K.T. also encourages other women fighting breast cancer to continue living out their best lives, and that this is a fight that can be conquered.

“When you first encounter breast cancer, you think, ‘How am I going to deal with this?’ But the thing is, humans can be very adaptable if we allow ourselves to be.”

Women of all ages are encouraged to check their breasts monthly in addition to annual examinations with their physicians. Women with a family history of breast cancer should also discuss genetic testing with their physicians. For more information on Texas Oncology, please visit www.texasoncology.com.

Read the full story at Austin American-Statesman.

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