“Find beauty in the hard moments.”
In June 2022, Korissa Diehl said she was lying in bed and felt a lump in her right breast, but said it felt like it was just a knot in a muscle, so she didn’t think she had to be worried.
Thankfully, she already had her annual physical scheduled the following week. However, when she brought it up at that appointment, they immediately scheduled a mammogram. She said from there it went really fast into the ultrasound and the biopsy.
The following month she was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma at the age of 44.
She said she was on her way to Hodag, at a gas station, when she got the news.
“I remember having my partner in front of me during the phone call,” said Korissa. “I nodded my head at her, and we both broke down in tears.”
She said she compares her feelings to hitting black ice on the road.
“You’re in your car, you’re cruising somewhere, then all of a sudden, bam! You hit black ice. You try to control it by pumping the brakes or try to swerve, but you kind of just have to let go and hope you don’t crash.”
Aunts on both her mom and dad’s side had cancer, but when she did the genetic testing, she didn’t have any link to breast cancer.
She had a double mastectomy in August of 2022. During that surgery, they discovered more cancer in her lymph nodes, which meant another surgery.
She was given four rounds of chemotherapy and 25 rounds of radiation. She was placed on hormone blockers for the next 10 years. She’s also had a bone density infusion.
Korissa had an 8 to 12-hour DIEP flap reconstruction surgery late last month and is still in the process in her recovery.
The hardest part of her breast cancer journey, she said through tears, has been watching her loved ones hurt.
“They feel so helpless, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” she said.
She said one takeaway from this experience, is that cancer patients are the strongest people she’ll ever meet.
“You have no idea the strength you have within you until you have to use it, and it’s incredible.”
Another thing she realized is that life is really so short.
“You can find the joy and beauty even in the hardest moments,” she said.
Korissa said she wants women to prioritize self-care. Schedule those annual preventive doctor visits, even if your life is busy. Korissa said she easily could’ve ignored the lump she found, but because she didn’t, it saved her life.
“Prioritizing those exams and caring for yourself makes us available to continually be there for our families,” she said.
She said her advice to anyone going through cancer is to find a good support group. Her support system was her tribe of friends, her family, and her medical team at Aurora BayCare. She said they were so supportive with resources and kindness.
She also said, that as hard as it is, really work on finding the beauty or joy within your journey.
When asked what her goals are, Korissa replied with, “live a long time!”
She wants to say that she is still cancer-free decades from now. She said she looks forward to watching her children and grandchildren grow up.
“I’m just gonna live life every day like it’s my last.”
Korissa has two children, ages 17 and 27 and her life partner Kari. She works for the nonprofit Forward Service Corporation, teaching a program called Transition to Success, where she works at removing the stigma of poverty and treating it as an environmentally based medical condition and not a character flaw.
She enjoys camping, hiking, and visiting breweries.
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