Kari Matthys still remembers the feeling of holding her oldest daughter in her arms for the first time.
“She was this little life that just depended on you for everything,” Matthys said. “I loved every minute of being a mom.”
Now a mother of three, Matthys, from Hillsboro, North Dakota, loves sharing her life and creating new memories with her girls.
“Being a mom, to me, is like having an extension of your soul right beside you,” she said. “They are a piece of you that is bonded without release.”
More than anything, Matthys wanted to see her girls, now 20, 18 and 15, grow up with great memories and achieve their dreams. Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis wasn’t something she ever imagined she’d have to share with them.
“I remember I was sitting on my deck and it was a beautiful sunny day when I got the call,” she said. “The tears just kept coming. How could it be?”
After years of doing everything she could to stay healthy, a routine mammogram last fall showed something unusual.
“I wasn’t worried,” Matthys said. “We’ve never had any family history of breast cancer, and I was healthy. I went to the ultrasound the following week with no worries, until during the ultrasound I saw ‘the something’ on the monitor.”
A biopsy confirmed breast cancer.
Immediately, the multidisciplinary team of Sanford Health experts embraced Matthys.
“It was comforting to know that everybody at Sanford was interested in what was best for me,” she said.
After the biopsy test came back positive for cancer in her left breast, he ordered a more comprehensive MRI. The scan showed atypical cells in her right breast, leading to her decision to have a double mastectomy, followed by reconstruction.
While Dr. Bouton’s team provided medical expertise, the nurse navigators and support staff at Edith Sanford Breast Center offered a guiding hand. They helped schedule appointments around Matthys’ work and home life.
“The diagnosis was unsettling, but I was more nervous about the logistics of dealing with life and having cancer,” she said. “It was a relief for me that each department communicated and collaborated with each other, keeping the patient, me, as the focus. The Sanford medical system was like a well-oiled machine.”
Matthys also leaned on the Sanford Cancer Survivorship Program’s integrated health services. This special program offers a variety of resources from the moment a patient is diagnosed, during treatment and after.
Matthys took advantage of the program’s relaxation practices to prepare for surgery. She was also connected with a physician assistant for follow-up treatment, a physical therapist to help regain her strength and a nutritionist to help her maintain a balanced, preventative diet.
This Mother’s Day, Matthys and her daughters will create more memories together. They’ll attend her oldest daughter’s college graduation and second daughter’s high school graduation this spring, and best of all, celebrate beating breast cancer.
Anyone interested in helping to save and protect more lives with a gift to the Edith Sanford Breast Center may give through the Sanford Health Foundation. Every dollar will stay local to support comprehensive breast care — from the advanced screening equipment that helped detect Matthys’s cancer early, to the expert staff, patient and social services, and everything in between.
“Supporting national programs is noble, but I always wonder where those funds go,” Matthys said. “When you support a local cause, you know the funds go to your community, friends, family and those you care about.”