Name: Kate Dowhan
Occupation: Chef and freelance food writer and developer
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 45
Breast cancer type: PR – /Estrogen + /HER 2 –
Breast cancer stage: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma stage 3
Treatment: Chemotherapy for four months, Mastectomy, Radiation, Breast Reconstruction
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer
I am a crazy dog lady. I have two sheep doodles. I had Dotty, five-years-old, during my cancer battle and she played a big part in helping me get through it. She was a true companion and seemed to know when I was low. I now have a boy puppy, Goose, who is eight-months-old.
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
I really don’t have one song. I truly learned about the power of music during my cancer journey. Music had always helped me and has been a part of our life as a family. None of us are musically inclined but we are constantly listening to it. The power of music picks us up, motivates us, soothes us and keeps us going. When I was low during treatment, I would listen to music and take my dog for a walk in nature and both would lift my mood.
I listened to a lot of country music during radiation. Country music at times is about being at your lowest but always getting up. Life will continue – losing your money, losing your girl and such. I would always listen to Eminem’s Lose Yourself before chemo – thinking to myself, “You can do this!! You are a fierce warrior!”
How did you discover your breast cancer?
I had a mass on my breast that I thought was a blocked milk duct. I never thought it was cancer as I had no family history and I was young. I also had nursed each of my three children until they were almost two years old. (It’s supposed to be a preventative measure). The lump would also dissipate, and seemed to come and go – which I learned later, can be a sign of a cancerous mass.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
Before my diagnosis, I thought that we were going to get a break from whoever sends these things out to us. My husband had just been diagnosed with diabetes a month before. During my first biopsy the radiologist said that it was likely cancer. I said to him, “I have three active children. I don’t know how I can fit this in.” He replied, “You will have to, it is a matter of life and death.” I learned we do what we have to do and we get through!
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?
“Can I give you a hug? I have heard that you only have a few months…?”
Who has been your biggest source of support?
Family, friends from all chapters of life, my husband and my beloved children. Also, young, positive women, other mothers, who have done this before. I am so thankful to them. They kept me going knowing they had done it before me. Also, an old camp friend, from when I was young. We had lost touch but when she heard I had breast cancer, she stepped back into my life. She has become an oncologist specializing in breast cancer. She was a gift. She messaged me daily and was a big sounding board. I knew she always had my back. I truly believe it was karma that we met and become such good friends when we were young.
What is the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?
Balance, change and maintaining a normal life for your children. It can’t remain normal. All you can do is your best. You need to think of your own well-being first, which we don’t often do as mothers. Asking for help. Your kids might not be able to be as active as they once were but they will know how much you love them. And they might just want to be around you.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself?
What a gift it is to be a mother. Many young women get breast cancer before having children. The gift of bringing a child into the world is taken from them. Being a mother is very hard work but children are resilient and full of such wisdom and life.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
Live each day!
Have a daily journal and write down what you are thankful for each day, even if it is just getting out of bed. You can read the journal at the end of treatment and be proud of yourself.
You can do this! You will have bad days but you can do it!
Don’t give up hope. I had been through almost half of my chemotherapy treatment when a scan was scheduled to see how my tumour was responding. The scan results showed that the chemo might not be working and that the tumour might be getting bigger. My heart broke. I had been working hard with chemotherapy. It was draining and definitely the hardest thing I had ever done. How could this be? All I could do was keep going and have hope. In time, my tumour did respond and the chemotherapy did begin to work. Belief, hope and keep going are all big words for the treatment of cancer.
A friend in the medical industry once told me to look at the journey of having breast cancer as running a marathon. It is hard. It will test you, you might slow down, you might feel like giving up but push yourself and keep going. Adversity builds character!