Diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, Lora Soltvedt is now doing well with treatments completed.
Soltvedt lives south of Jefferson City and is a school secretary at Eugene Elementary where she's worked for 24 years. The wife, mother of two and grandmother of seven attends Eugene Christian Church and enjoys traveling, camping, reading and crafting.
In honor of October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Soltvedt, along with three other area survivors, shared some of their journey battling breast cancer.
The following answers have been editing for clarity and space constraints:
Q. Explain your diagnosis and treatment. How are you now?
A. I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma Jan. 11, 2021, at the age of 56. My mom has been through this same journey twice with breast cancer. My husband and I decided to do genetic testing to see if we were dealing with genetics. We were pleasantly surprised the testing showed my cancer was not genetic.
Surgery, a lumpectomy, was the next step for me.
I was very fortunate I did not have to undergo chemotherapy. I watched a co-worker go through chemo and knew that was something I didn't want to battle through unless it meant saving my life. I did have 20 treatments of radiation. I remember I was so nervous about my first visit. It didn't hurt for the first couple of weeks, but I started to burn slightly during the third week and was very uncomfortable the last week. People told me they got so tired during radiation, and I experienced that fatigue from the beginning.
I'm doing well now. It's been nine months since that dreaded phone call. I recently noticed a lack of motion in my left arm. My surgeon said it could be easily taken care of so I'm doing some physical therapy through Outbound Physical Therapy and Rehab. I'm making progress, but it's another reminder of the cancer.
Q. How did you feel when you first heard the news?
A. I was shocked when I got the call after having a mammogram that they wanted me to come in for an ultrasound on Dec. 30. I remember thinking this was probably nothing but knew I needed to go in to have the ultrasound done. After the ultrasound tech was done, she said to have a seat and a radiologist would come in and visit with me about the results.
Now I was beginning to get concerned. I remember the radiologist saying there were three categories, and mine was the middle category — it wasn't in the "definitely not" category, but it wasn't in the "definitely" category either.
So Jan. 5, they wanted to do a biopsy. By this point I was extremely concerned. My husband wasn't really happy they were putting me through all this for nothing. I started calling for results on a Friday morning. They said they should have results by then. The waiting was stressful. No answers Friday; no answers on Monday. I cried all the way home from school Monday afternoon.
My husband tried to console me, he really thought there was nothing to worry about. I was so mad at the world by that point. I got home, put on my PJs and was in the recliner when I got the call. It wasn't my OB/GYN but the doctor on call for her. She wanted me to know the results as soon as she got them.
I couldn't believe what she was telling me. I remembered very little of it except that I had breast cancer. I remember listening as my husband made calls to our children and other family members and him telling me as we laid in bed that night that I would have a different colored T-shirt from Relay for Life. I told him I didn't want a purple T-shirt — the color survivors wear. We both have been a part of Relay For Life for a long time.
Q. What were some of the obstacles you faced? How did you overcome them?
A. I don't feel like I had any huge obstacles to overcome except the cancer itself!
Q. What was your support system like, and how important is that in the process?
A. My support system was everything to me! God provided so much peace through this journey. My husband was there every step of the way: doctor appointments, surgery, more doctor appointments, radiation and to give me the comfort that I needed. My children, family, friends and co-workers were all there for me with thoughts and powerful prayers.
Q. Were there any community programs or services you used that were particularly beneficial?
A. The American Cancer Society is a valuable resource of help in this community. Thankfully, I didn't need any of the help they offer, but I know it's invaluable to other patients.
Q. What message would you like to provide to women in the community who have been diagnosed with breast cancer or about breast health in general?
A. My faith was invaluable to my journey. Ladies, if you have been diagnosed, turn to your faith for peace and comfort. Women also need to know how important it is to do monthly self checks and yearly mammograms without fail. I had just come out of quarantine from having COVID-19 and really wanted to just skip my mammogram. My husband said I needed to keep my appointment and go. I know that was God telling him I needed to have this mammogram done. Oh my goodness, I'm so glad I did. Technology can detect tumors so early.