Cancer Hub Survival Story
Survivor Story by Katherine Knoploh
Every cancer patient has a moment in time that
they remember hearing “The Words,” and just
as significant is what came before that moment.
It was February 2015 when I went for an annual
check-up and my doctor found a lump in one of
my breasts. I was sent for a diagnostic
mammogram and an ultrasound. The radiologist
had a look on his face as he told me that not
only was there a concern with the lump in the breast, but also an area of concern in the lymph
nodes under the arm. As a mother who had given birth to premature twins, I was familiar with
the look on the doctor's face, which was one of knowing, and not wanting to say anything until
tests confirm. My next step was a biopsy, which was five days later. In the meantime, I talked
with other local women I knew who had breast cancer to get their doctor recommendations, and
I searched doctors within my insurance network. I felt like this gave me a little control in a
situation that felt completely out of my control. At the biopsy, the doctor answered my difficult
questions and told me the breast tissue did not look like normal breast tissue. The very next day
was the call, when the nurse said, “I think you know, you have breast cancer.” That was on
March 5, 2015, and I would later learn that I had stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
The immediate fear and panic welled up inside me as I thought about my children, whom both
have special needs and may never live independently. But, there was no time for emotion. I
jumped into function mode as I cleared my schedule for more testing, doctor appointments, and
surgery that took place exactly 3 weeks after my diagnosis.
Ultimately I had a double mastectomy, five months of chemotherapy, and six weeks of radiation,
finishing up active treatment in November that year. I chose to have delayed reconstruction and
that process did not begin until June of 2016. As I began reconstruction I found I was moving
forward physically, but not emotionally. I felt stuck in that fear of recurrence, especially in those
quiet moments. I participated in community message boards for breast cancer patients and one
night I read something by another woman that resonated with me. She said, “I don’t want to look
back decades from now and realize I had lived that entire time in fear.” That one sentence,
written by a stranger, began my emotional healing. Shortly after I became close friends with a
woman from that same message board, who was stage 4 when we met. It was hard sometimes
loving someone whom you know is going to leave you soon, but sometimes what’s hard is also
valuable. I was blessed to be a part of the last year of her life.
At the same time, for my own healing, I decided to study with the Institute for Integrative
Nutrition where I learned the holistic approach to health. I had always thought health was about
food and exercise, but I learned there are other aspects that contribute to our health. After
completing my program in the summer of 2018, I started my coaching business, Inspired Vitality,
to provide support to others impacted by cancer. I partner with people to provide practical tips,
resources, and emotional comfort with my individual coaching, and I’ve had the opportunity to
do public speaking. I was planning more speaking events when the pandemic hit, so in my
desire to help others, I started my YouTube channel, Inspired Vitality, and have been honored to
be a guest on some podcasts this year.
When I finished chemo in 2015 I wanted to put as much distance as I could between myself and
the cancer community. I didn’t want to wear pink or go on walks. I thought healing meant
getting away from all things cancer. What I didn’t know then that I know now:
●Cancer doesn’t end when active treatment ends. There are follow-up appointments and
ongoing medications that lead to side effects. For some, there’s no escaping cancer
●I treasure the people I meet in the cancer community! These people speak my language,
no matter where we are geographically. Connecting with others and sharing ourselves is
one of the best realizations from my experience.
●Making a difference comes in many forms. It might be having a conversation with a
woman days before her mastectomy, or sharing my story publicly and allowing the
listener to apply bits to themselves.
Lastly, I have learned that cancer does not define me, and I have allowed it to shape me.
I’m happy to share that at recent oncology check up my blood work results were perfectly
normal and it was decided that soon I will be eliminating one of my medications.