It’s been seven years and Karla (Dunn) Garcia continues to remain upbeat and positive in her fight with what started as breast cancer. The Great Bend resident first was diagnosed with left sided ductal carcinoma in situ in April of 2013. A very small lump was found during her regular mammogram.
Karla’s primary care physician referred her to Central Care Cancer Center in Great Bend where she met up with Medical Oncologists Dr. Greg Nanney and Dr. Mark Fesen. “Everybody there is so knowledgeable, genuine and nice. I can’t say enough about how good everyone is, and so caring.” Karla underwent a few radiation treatments and had a lumpectomy.
However, the cancer came back two years later in the same breast. This time, the cancer was a little larger and had metastasized to surrounding lymph nodes. “I've always been a pretty positive thinking person, so through this journey, I have not once said I wasn't going to survive this. Because, I just can't think like that,” said Karla.
That positive mentality has carried Karla a long way, as a second lumpectomy was performed. She also started chemotherapy. During treatments, sometimes she would get dehydrated and she lost over 60 pounds. Of course, there was nausea and hair loss too. Karla said, “I couldn’t eat, because nothing tasted good. The only thing I could eat that tasted good to me was mandarin oranges!”
As Karla struggled with her own reoccurring breast cancer fight, she ended up having a bilateral mastectomy in June of 2016. Through all of this, she continued chemotherapy treatments. However, it took a friend saying ‘Karla, you have to let go and let God’, for everything to click. “That’s what I finally did. I’m one that likes to be in control of my life. I’ve been independent, living on my own until I got married five years ago at age 58 to my love, Jerry (Vic) Garcia. I liked being in control of what was happening to me, but this….I was not in control of. I finally let go, and that was the most comforting thing that I could have done for myself.” Karla added, “Just let go. Do what you have to do whether you want to do it or not. Yeah, it sucks and you don’t want to have to go to all these appointments and have all these tests, but you’ll get through and move on to the next step.”
Karla chose not to do reconstruction surgery, but has prosthesis and recommends the services of Knitted Knockers. They are knitted breast prosthesis that are fiber filled, and fit right inside the bra cup.
In August of 2017, the cancer reoccurred in her left axillary lymph nodes and in October 2019, a lymph node in her neck was positive for the same cancer that was initially in her left breast. A whole body bone scan in September of this year showed that the cancer metastasized to her hip, rib and clavicle area; metastatic bone disease. “Right now there is not a time as to when I’ll be off chemo. I feel like it’s probably going to be long-term, but hey, as long as it keeps me here, that’s ok with me.”
Karla is thankful for all the people that have prayed for her or sent positive thoughts for healing. The outpouring of support has been uplifting and inspiring. However, Karla is a genuine inspiration to other cancer patients at Central Care Cancer Center. “I'm so blessed to still be here after seven years of battling cancer. I just never had it in my head that I wasn't going to survive it. I’m in no position to give up now. Some people have the doldrums and are negative with what they're going through. I understand that it's a hard time, but that brings your whole soul down. I feel like if you are upbeat and positive, it nourishes your soul.”
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The pink you see around you in your daily life is a reminder to get yourself checked. Breast cancer statistics show that monthly self-exams are important as well as getting an annual mammogram after the age of 40. 1 in 8 women and 10 percent of men will develop breast cancer.