Keri's Breast Cancer Story: Preparing for Chemo and Surgery

Doug Haberstroh Health Guide
  • My wife, Keri Haberstroh, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 25. It was March of 2005, and we had been married for nine months.


    My name is Doug, and I am here to tell Keri's breast cancer story, from start to finish. That is what Keri would have wanted -- to share what we learned as a young couple in love, fighting breast cancer, and living life as best we could.


    In this first set of emails, Keri discusses her plans for chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumor in her breast; I try to keep Keri laughing, as she anticipates starting her chemo.



    Subject: Surgery Info

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    Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2005 9:32 AM




    Just some FYI -- my surgery to remove the tumor is supposed to take place next Wednesday April 6. It should happen around 10:00 am, although I am after a couple of other patients of the same surgeon, so it may run later. It should only take one hour, though I will be there a couple of hours ahead of time.


    Also, I'll be staying an hour and a half afterwards, so they can monitor me before I get to go home. Doug will be with me as much as they'll let him.


    If you want to call during or right after my surgery to check on how things went I have a phone number to Gulf Coast Medical Center and a passcode to give you. You have to have the passcode to find out any information. The phone number is (850) 769-____ and the passcode is ____. If for some reason you can't find this number you can always just call Doug's cell phone (850) 819-____, and see if he answers. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers. I'm sure everything will turn out just fine. Talk to you later.


    Love to you all,



    Subject: Update on Keri

    Sent: Saturday, April 16, 2005 5:03 PM


    Hello All,


    Just wanted to let everyone know of the update on my treatment. The doctors want me to do my chemotherapy first. They say I will respond better to it now instead of after a major surgery and that it decreases the risk of it spreading during surgery. Basically it's going to kill off any active cancer cells that are in my body.


    They put in what's called a life port, which is a long "straw" that starts around my collarbone area and goes down near my heart. It's all under the skin. This is what they use to give me the chemo drugs. They just tap into that instead of giving me an IV each time. I will go every two weeks for the next 12-16 weeks. It takes two days each time because they have two drugs they are giving me that they do not want to mix.


    After my chemo is done I will still be going to have a modified radical mastectomy. This means that they take off everything except the muscle that is still attached to my chest wall. As of yet I don't know when the surgery will take place, since it will be in a few months because of the chemo. After that surgery we will look into more surgery for breast reconstruction.


    I don't know yet how I will react to the chemo drugs. They say that I won't feel well and I'll be really fatigued, but that I shouldn't be throwing up. They give me anti-nausea medicine to help with that. I have the chemo sessions at my oncologist's office each time and they have a special area that is set up like a big living room.


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    There will usually be other patients there in the same area that are also getting chemo at the same time as I am. It takes 1 and half to 3 hours each time so they tell me to bring a hobby, book, or just watch the TV they have on. I can have someone come with me and sit with me while I do this, so Doug is planning to take me as often as he can.


    My first chemo session is this coming Thursday, April 21st. My mom is planning to be here on Tuesday so that she can stay for the import of my life port and for the first chemo session, plus some days afterwards to see how I react. She'll be staying a week.


    I'm still pretty scared about all this and am nervous about how I will react to the drugs. They say the drugs are real strong so I'm trying to be prepared, but at the same time up beat.


    Doug is helping keep me positive. With his humor it's hard not to laugh at the goofy things he does. It is a blessing for me to have him with me to help me through all this.


    Thank you so much to all of you for your thoughts and prayers, phone calls and cards. They really do help. Please keep me in your thoughts as I start this treatment. When I am feeling up to emailing again I'll send an update on how things go. If I can't do that soon, I'm sure Doug will send out an email.


    Thanks again for all the thoughts and prayers.


    Love to you all,





    Subject: Doug's Bald Head

    Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 6:36 PM



    Here's a look at the scalp. A little support for Keri but I'm beginning to get used to it now. We'll have to see if I stick with it after all is said and done. Enjoy!






    A Note from Doug: We're also telling Keri's breast cancer story as a weekly comic strip. Check back each week to follow her story. Episode 1 flashes forward to Keri's thoughts on her first week of chemotherapy. You can also read the emails corresponding to Episode 1 in our SharePost The First Week of Chemotherapy.



Published On: July 25, 2007