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Riverside Employee Beat Breast Cancer Through Early Detection

NEWPORT NEWS-Kate Angster has enjoyed a career as a clinical coordinator with Riverside Family Medicine and Pediatrics at the Brentwood Medical Center for more than 18 years. Angster found herself in a role reversal as patient versus provider of Riverside Health System when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2020.

While many people detect breast cancer when noticing a new lump or mass during self-examination, Angster’s early detection was found during a routine mammogram. After confirmation of cancerous cells through an ultrasound and biopsy, she opted for a lumpectomy performed by Dr. Kara Elizabeth Friend, a general surgeon with Riverside Health System.

“Dr. Friend was wonderful,” said Angster. “I also did genetic testing with her, and my genetic test actually came back with no clinical mutations identified, which is a good thing for my daughter.”

Angster’s mother is a breast-cancer survivor as well, though the two didn’t share the same type of breast cancer. “Mine was triple negative and hers was HER2-positive, so we had two different types of cancer,” she said.

Post-surgery treatment included chemotherapy and radiation. Covid-precautionary mandates came into effect during Angster’s treatment. Her husband was only permitted to accompany her to the first session at Riverside Cancer Institute because rules changed and only patients were being permitted into medical facilities at the time.

“It was kind of lonely, but you become friends with other patients, and Nurse Patti Joy was wonderful,” said Angster. “We talked all the time about different things so that I wasn’t stewing over everything.”

Angster didn’t take much time off from her job during treatment. She viewed it as a healthy distraction from her worries. The day she received her breast cancer diagnosis, she shared the news with her coworkers.

“I basically walked around the building and told every single employee myself what was going on because I wanted them to know why if I wasn’t there,” said Angster.

The day that she completed her treatment at Riverside Cancer Institute there was a medical snafu that hindered her bell-ringing ceremony to mark the end of chemo and radiation. Delayed one week, her friends, family, and coworkers watched from the ground level as Angster rang the bell from a balcony at the institute.

Angster’s candid honesty about her medical condition with her coworkers planted seeds of advocacy in the workplace.

“Another gal in our office found out she had breast cancer,” said Angster. “I helped her step by step on exactly what she needed to do, and she said it helped her a great deal.”

There are more than 3.5 million breast-cancer survivors in the United States and early detection saves lives, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. To schedule a mammogram with Riverside Health System, please click here.

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