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When Krissy Posey was diagnosed with breast cancer at only 28, the first words out of her mouth were, “Okay. Just tell me what I need to do next.” Her next steps were to get a second and third opinion before returning to NorthShore for treatment, choosing the expertise of Katharine Yao, MD, and the team of caregivers at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center for a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy, followed by reconstruction.
In her NorthShore patient story, Krissy recounts the difficult and surprising moments of her battle with breast cancer, but also how and why she found the strength to smile:
How did your journey to diagnosis begin? I hadn’t started mammograms since I was only in my twenties. I don’t really have a family history of breast cancer other than a great-aunt who has been battling the disease for over 10 years.
I came home from work one day and, as I was stepping out of my work clothes, I felt an itch in my right breast. When I went to scratch it, I felt a small mass. I was on the phone with my sister at the time and told her I felt a lump in my breast and she encouraged me to get it checked out.
What went through your head when you learned that you had breast cancer at only 28? I was at work when I received the call from my doctor, Catherine Dillon. She asked me if I wanted to come into the office for the results. I told her to just lay it on me. After she told me that she didn’t have good news, that the test came back indicating cancer, my response was, “Okay. Just tell me what I need to do next.”
Dr. Dillon said the doctors wanted to see me right away. In a matter of two hours, I was told that I had cancer, made my way to the hospital and was sitting in a room with Dr. Yao discussing my diagnosis and next steps. I remained calm and at peace during this time. Yes, it was all happening so fast but after I got off the phone with Dr. Dillon, I prayed and then called my family to tell them the news.
What stood out about your care at NorthShore? After receiving a second and even third opinion at other healthcare facilities, I came back to Northshore for treatment. My team of doctors included: Catherine Dillon, MD, Obstetrics/Gynecology; Katharine Yao, MD, General Surgery; Teresa Law, MD, Medical Oncology; Mark Sisco, MD, Plastic Reconstruction Surgery and, of course, all of their fabulous nurses.
My team of doctors and nurses are simply the best in the business. I wasn’t just a patient to them; I was a person. They showed care and concern, and made what could have been a very traumatic time in my life a lot easier to get through. I never second guessed the treatment I received. I trusted the doctors and their recommendations.
What was the most difficult part of treatment? The doses of Adriamycin Cytoxan (chemotherapy drug). The nurses call it the “Red Devil,” and now I know why. The medicine is red and really takes a toll on your body. After a while, I couldn’t even eat or drink anything red without getting nauseated.
What surprised you most about the experience? This may sound bad but I was surprised that I didn’t “look” as sick as I thought I would during such an extensive treatment plan. It was important to me to look as “normal” as I could and not show many signs of weakness for two reasons: 1) That’s how I chose not to let the disease get the best of me and 2) I wanted to remain strong for my family. I knew if they saw me in a certain condition that it would really worry them.
What advice would you give other women currently undergoing treatment? Try to be positive, see what good can come out of this situation and smile. I know you are going through a lot but if others see you can smile through all of this, it not only gives them hope but it also does something good for you too.