Kristin Worley did everything right.
Worley, 42, has no family history of breast cancer but still actively took steps to avoid it. She breast fed, eschewed antiperspirants, never wore underwire bras and avoided getting a mammogram, mistakenly thinking they did more harm than good.
“It was a huge shock,” she said. “Having cancer—if it’s taught me anything, it’s taught me to be humble. Up until this point, I’ve had very good health.”
Last summer, Worley felt a lump during a self breast exam.
Worley is the director of the National Beauty College in Canton and found the lump just as the school was being re-accredited.
“I put everything off until that was over with,” she said. “I told myself, as soon as they’re done, I would go and get this checked out.”
Worley had her first mammogram that September. That led to more testing and then a surgical referral.
A self-described Mercy girl, Worley went to Dr. Russell Ramey for a biopsy. He called the following Monday, at 9:48 p.m. exactly, to tell her it was cancer.
Worley had a large 8-centimeter mass, but thankfully only a small portion of it was cancerous and hadn’t spread beyond the first lymph node.
She underwent chemotherapy, which shrunk the mass significantly, and then, on April 16, had a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.
“The thing that drove my decision making with all my treatment was, ‘What is the thing that’s going to reduce my risk for reoccurrence?’ I’m young. I plan to live to a ripe old age. I definitely don’t ever want to have to go through this again. So that’s why I decided on the double mastectomy,” she said.
Worley went on to have radiation and, because she’s HER-2 positive, is now undergoing targeted treatment to ensure she stays cancer free.
“I love Mercy. Everyone there has been fantastic,” she said, praising the staff that held her hand through biopsies and stopped by often to check on her.
Worley, who lives in Canton with her husband, James, and 8-year-old daughter Adara, encourages others to stay on top of their health, do self checks and get regular mammograms.
“One thing I’ve learned is that there’s nothing that’s going to prevent it if it’s supposed to happen … But early detection is key,” she said.
Worley isn’t afraid to share her experience with others. She hopes it will help others going through their own cancer diagnosis know what to expect.
“Your experience is not going to be exactly like theirs, but at least having an idea of what’s going to happen to you makes it so much easier to deal with,” she said.