HealthBeat: A nurse becomes the patient


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — October was breast cancer awareness month, but just because the month is over doesn’t mean the importance of getting screened goes away.

And by continuing to spread the word, doctors hope more people will take action.

Shelly Thiewes is a nurse at the Sanford Health clinic in Brookings, making her no stranger to taking care of others. But after a breast cancer awareness event in her clinic, it was she who needed care.

“Your initial reaction is shock. You know, this can’t be, but afterwards it was you know, I have to meet this head on and I have to keep a positive attitude,” Thiewes said.

She was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. Because it was caught early she didn’t need chemo or radiation, and instead was treated orally. Then, she underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

“Most of what I’m doing anymore is direct implant reconstruction, meaning right at the time of the mastectomy they can have their reconstruction immediately,” Dr. Heather Karu said.

Dr. Heather Karu says this technique provides a fast recovery with less pain, while also helping women feel comfortable.

“Most people, they just want to feel comfortable in their clothes, comfortable and not having people stare or do different things. It’s good to make them feel comfortable, it’s good to make them feel feminine,” Karu said.

Today Thiewes is just that, comfortable and feeling feminine– and happily cancer free.

“I got to keep my hair, I’m very fortunate,” Thiewes said.

Which may not have been possible if the cancer wasn’t caught early.

The sooner you can get screened the better, because doctors say waiting any length of time can make a big difference in the outcome.

“We really recommend monthly self breast exams continue to be important. Screening mammograms are really the best thing because they find it at the earliest level,” Karu said.

“We tend to put ourselves last and we really need to remember that for us to be around to take care of others, we have to take care of ourselves first,” Thiewes said.

Sharing all of this, in hopes that others will take time for themselves and get screened too.

Dr. Karu says Sanford Health recommends women begin screening for breast cancer at age 40 and every year after– but that number can change depending on your risk factors.

For more information on when you should be screened, click here.

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