5 months after the scariest phone call of her life, breast cancer survivor feeling grateful
Sharon Hoberg was sitting in Denver International Airport waiting to board a flight to Iowa for her cousin’s wedding when her phone rang.
“I got the call and they told me that I had invasive ductal carcinoma,” said Hoberg, who owns and runs Valley Appraisal, Inc. in Craig. “When they say that, you are in shock. The first thing I wanted to know is if it was advanced. You don’t know anything at that point, and it’s just fear. It was probably the most fearful moment I’ve ever had. I can’t even describe it.”
Homberg had made getting a mammography a part of her yearly routine for the last 19 years. And until this May, she had never needed to have a technician, nurse or doctor call her back after the screening.
But this time, it was different.
“At first I thought ‘It can’t be me.’ I’m healthy. I’m never sick, and I really never have had anything wrong,” she said. “So, it was pretty shocking, and it was even worse because I was sitting in the Denver airport.”
Hoberg’s journey into the world of breast cancer began with her annual mammography. It was something she had been through many times before, but this time, a technician at Memorial Regional Health in Craig, where she has lived since 1983, had convinced Hoberg to undergo a new option — the 3D mammogram.
“It was funny because the tech had to talk me into getting the 3D, because my insurance didn’t cover the extra portion of that,” Hoberg recalled. “Luckily, I did, because the cancer would not have shown up on my regular mammogram.”
The test reveled Hoberg had two small abnormalities which were biopsied and determined to be invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer for women.
Hoberg, who was with her husband of 30 years when she got the news, elected not to go to her cousin’s wedding and flew back to Northwest Colorado to begin her battle with cancer.
“The fear of not knowing was the biggest thing. … I was like, ‘Am I going to die?’” she said. “The woman on the phone told me that I needed to find a surgeon. I had no clue what to do, so I called a friend, and she said ‘Let me talk to someone at the breast cancer center in Steamboat and see if Dr. Kaske would take your case.’”
Dr. Terese Kaske, breast imaging radiologist and director of the UCHealth Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center in Steamboat Springs, did take the case, and Hoberg said the team at UCHealth took great care of her from start to finish while managing her case.
Hoberg underwent surgery at UCHealth with Dr. Allen Belshaw to remove the cancer, and then began four weeks of daily radiation treatment in Glenwood Springs.
Hoberg’s journey took her across Colorado, but she felt lucky to have such good hospitals in both Craig and Steamboat Springs, she said.
“They had the breast cancer center in Steamboat, which is a really big deal,” she said. “I relieved a lot of my anxiety by going to Steamboat Springs. They just know everything — how to schedule things, what to do. They took so much off of me, and it was amazing. You felt like part of a family. … You want to know that you are going to someplace where they deal with this kind of stuff all the time.”
Hoberg was confronted with the reality of breast cancer in May, and fewer than six months later, seems well on the road to recovery. She credits Memorial Regional Health for the early detection of her cancer and said she got top care at the Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center, where she met doctors and nurses who gave her the moral and inspirational support she needed to beat her cancer.
Hoberg said she never felt like cancer was going to get the best of her.
After surgery, Hoberg said she talked with Belshaw and elected to drive to Glenwood Springs to undergo daily five- minute radiation treatments, Monday through Friday, for four weeks. Hoberg said she chose that option instead of getting a full mastectomy and avoiding radiation.
“After talking to Dr. Belshaw about my options, he said a lot of women in this area, because they have to travel so far, opt not to have radiation, so they have full mastectomies,” Hoberg said. “There are ups and downs with both of them, and I just thought ‘I can do that.’”
While she still spends plenty of time in the doctor’s office having checkups, today Hoberg is cancer free and is determined to make sure that cancer doesn’t change her life.
“I just tried to keep my life as normal as I could everyday,” Hoberg said. “I would come to work every morning, and, at noon, I would hop in my car and drive down to Glenwood, have my treatment and then come home. I would do that every day.”
But despite her efforts to remain normal, Hoberg admits that the experience has changed her view of life.
Hoberg said her doctor in Glenwood told her that, when she was done with treatment, she would look back on the experience as being easy, because she caught the cancer early through preventive care.
“Go in for your mammograms, do your monthly checks,” Hoberg said. “Basically, it comes down to the preventive. Just go in and get it done.”
Hoberg said she didn’t have any major signs before her diagnosis. She didn’t have a lump, didn’t have any dimpling or any other signs that she could see our feel. She owes her “easy” time to getting a mammogram. Today, she is getting the most out of life and enjoying time with her husband and son in Craig, and her many friends in the Yampa Valley.
“You appreciate things,” she said. “Everything is brighter. I don’t know how else to describe it — it’s like a whole new world. It’s awesome.”
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