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As a family medicine physician, Marchele Bowen, MD, has seen plenty of patients who survived cancer, scars and all. But nothing can prepare even a doctor for the words “you have breast cancer.”
Breast cancer survivor Marchele Bowen, MD, talks about her journey facing breast cancer and the course of treatment and surgery that put her on a healing path.
At age 49 and as the mother of a three-year-old son, Dr. Bowen’s diagnosis came completely out of the blue. “This whole cancer thing rocks your sense of self a bit,” she recalled. After finding a lump in the fall of 2017, Dr. Bowen began her journey that included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, all while she continued to practice at NorthShore.
Surgical Ease “The surgery was the breeziest part of the whole experience,” relayed Dr. Bowen of Vernon Hills, who had a partial mastectomy with Katherine Kopkash, MD, Director of the new Oncoplastic Program at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center. A specialty within breast surgery, oncoplastic surgery focuses on the best outcomes for removing the cancer, while also leaving women as happy as possible about their appearance after surgery.
“It was really good talking with Dr. Kopkash. I learned about her technique and she was very reassuring,” said Dr. Bowen. “I’ve seen other women who’ve gone through this with a breast surgeon who didn’t give any consideration for contour, volume or preserving the shape of the breast.”
Dr. Kopkash has a simple goal for her patients: to cure cancer in the most beautiful way possible. “For Marchele and all my patients, cancer is such a shock when it invades a high-functioning, healthy life,” explained Dr. Kopkash, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “We know breast cancer is very survivable now, and our goal is to keep these women healthy and avoid disfigurement. This is a quality-of-life issue.”
Genetics Drives Treatment As part of her care at Kellogg Cancer Center, Dr. Bowen underwent genetic testing for mutations and profiling of her tumor to better assess her risk for recurrence. The DNA test results also helped her care team develop a personalized treatment plan including chemo and radiation.
“It’s been challenging, but it’s also helped me better relate to patients who have gone through similar challenges. I’m starting to feel like my old self again and looking forward to more of that,” added Dr. Bowen.
“What Dr. Kopkash offers is so superior. I can look in the mirror and don’t feel deformed. I feel lucky to have found her!”