September 25, 2018
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 in Sioux Falls, 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..
“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 in July 2015 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. “This journey definitely has brought my family closer together. This diagnosis has given us a platform to work together, to help others and their families, as they learn how to support each other.”
Just three weeks after her diagnosis, Sundvold underwent a bilateral mastectomy, which was later followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
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 focuses on sharing her story of survival and advocating for Edith Sanford and the medical team that has made such a difference in her life.
“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.”
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To make a donation or find other ways to get involved, visit sanfordhealthfoundation.org/edith.