#YWBC Profile: Cathy Kloppenburg
Name: Cathy Kloppenburg
City: Wainright, Alberta
Occupation: Remote Sensing Analyst
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 36
Breast cancer type: HER2+ metastatic cancer
Breast cancer stage: 4
Treatment: I’ve previously had 10 cycles of weekly Taxol (chemotherapy) and Herceptin & Perjeta every 3 weeks as well as radiation to both hips, both shoulders, and spine to help control the pain from the bone metastases. I’m currently on Herceptin & Perjeta now to help stop the cancer from spreading more.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer.
I have a Master of Science in Geography with a specialization in Remote Sensing. I analyze aerial and satellite images for fun. I also enjoy beading and make bracelets, necklaces, and earrings with my time now.
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
‘Here Comes the Sun’ by The Beatles.
How did you discover your breast cancer?
I was having pain in my body to the point where it was becoming painful to walk. When I went to the doctor, it was diagnosed as fibromyalgia. When I was visiting my brother after Christmas last year, I couldn’t go up the 3 steps to get into his house. He had to haul me up the stairs while I screamed in pain. I knew I had to go to the hospital. After doing blood work, the doctor sent me to Edmonton by ambulance because my kidneys were shutting down from the prescription anti-inflammatory meds I was on. In Edmonton, the doctors noticed that the calcium levels were elevated in my daily blood tests so they suspected it was either cancer or an issue with my endocrine system. They did about a million tests on me to determine what the cause was. Because it was a holiday, they’d sent a resident to give me the news. He didn’t want me to go through the weekend not knowing what was going on. I knew it was bad because the doctor had tears in his eyes when he was telling me exactly what was wrong. He told me that I had stage 4 breast cancer with metastases in my bones.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
I’d had a dream 2 weeks before I was diagnosed that I had cancer in my left shoulder and needed to have my arm amputated. When the doctor told me I had cancer, I knew it was the only thing that could explain the amount of pain that I was in. It made perfect sense to me after that.
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?
I have neuropathy in my feet and keep smashing my toes with my walker wheels. As a result of this, I ended up in the ER early one morning to get one of my toenails removed. After having to explain to the nurse and the doctor that I have stage 4 breast cancer and am getting chemo as a course of treatment, the doctor turns to me and says, “What are they hoping to accomplish by giving you chemo?”
Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?
My mom stayed with me in the hospital after I was first diagnosed. When I started treatment, she would stay with me in the hospital from 8 or 9 in the morning until 8 or 9 at night. She takes me to most of my treatments in Lloydminster and my tests and Dr’s appointments in Edmonton. She spent most of the summer with me while she was off work. My best friend Morgan has been there for me since I was diagnosed. She would drive to Edmonton from Calgary to visit with me in the hospital. Most of the time I would sleep through the visit but she would sit there with me so that I knew I wasn’t alone. She also drives to Wainwright to take me to some of my treatments and appointments. Online Facebook communities are a good source of support for me. It’s been 10 months since I was diagnosed and some days it’s still hard to wrap my brain around this diagnosis. I’ve found help and support from other young women that have or had breast cancer. It’s encouraging for me to be able to talk to people that understand my situation and the challenges I face every day and going forward.
What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?
I can’t have kids. Before it was always my decision to have kids or not. If I chose not to have them it was because I was invested in getting an education and then working to further my career. Now the choice has been taken away from me.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?
I can stay positive when faced with stage 4 breast cancer and its challenges. I’ve been told that there is no cure. That at some point I will eventually die from cancer. That is fine because someday we all die; I just know what I’m most likely going to die from. Facing breast cancer doesn’t mean that I have to give up on living my life to the fullest just because I’ve been presented with a new set of unique challenges. It just means that I have to rethink how I approach things and change my perspective of the world. My goals in life have changed. I want a simple life and anything I do in the future has to be reasonable and realistic.
In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
As tough as this fight might seem, you are never alone because there is always someone that will be there to support you, even if that someone is miles away.
For more wisdom on being young with breast cancer check out Rethink Breast Cancer’s Care Guidelines here.