Breast Cancer Survivor: Be a Creator, not a Victim

“You can either be a victim or a creator.” That’s a passionate lesson Karin Burdick tells students in her Strategies for Academic Success class at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

Today, Burdick is receiving treatment for breast cancer, and is using her experience to create awareness that cancer can affect anyone.

Learning she had breast cancer was a long journey. As she relaxed one evening in January 2015, she turned over in her bed only to discover a lump between her breast and armpit.

As she reported her concerns, she was referred for a diagnostic mammogram at the Prairie Center in Sioux Falls, where she met a supportive team of nurses and physicians.

Even though the cancer was caught in stage 1, the small tumor contained components that made it aggressive. Burdick was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer, meaning the tumor feeds off of estrogen, progesterone and the protein HER2.

“When you receive that diagnosis, you think the worst,” said Burdick. “But you need to remember that cancer is a disease that can be treated.”

It was a serious, but hopeful, message she shared with her family and friends.

“I have two young boys, ages 8 and 10, and I told them right away,” said Burdick. “I wanted to be open and honest about what was going on. I wanted them to see my experience from diagnosis through treatment.”

Her husband, Guy, has served on the Sioux Falls Fire Rescue team for nearly 10 years, which is a large supporter of the Avera Breast Center through promoting screening mammograms. “Guy has been my biggest advocate through all this, telling me everything will be OK.”

Burdick is currently undergoing chemotherapy at the Prairie Center as well as taking oral medications to manage the protein HER2 and estrogen. Depending on the tumor’s reaction to chemo, her care team will present her with surgical options. “The technological advancements are amazing. In my case, it’s really cool how they treated the cancer before turning to surgery.”

The Prairie Center’s atmosphere also impressed Burdick. Instead of that hospital feeling, she said the ambience reflected more of a spa. Patients can get a massage, participate in mind-body classes or express themselves through art. Integrative medicine services, such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and nutrition counseling, also help alleviate nausea and other symptoms.

Outside of treatment, Burdick now savors every moment spent with family, friends and students.

“As much as it has scared me, I wouldn’t give the cancer back. It has changed my perspective and my relationship with my family for the better. You realize what is important in life.”

Learn more at Avera.org/cancer

Avera News Team

By Avera News Team

Marketing and Communications at Avera Health

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