Sara’s Journey: Komen Nebraska presents “My Journey” — real stories about Nebraskans working together to defeat breast cancer.
Komen Nebraska presents “My Journey” — real stories about Nebraskans working together to defeat breast cancer.
“I Can Do This”
Life for Sara Vonderfecht has several important connections.
The first is her husband, Dan, a farmer from Holbrook, Nebraska, located about 75 miles southwest of Kearney. They’ve been married 10 years and have no children. Sara is originally from Wichita, Kansas, and her parents – important connections Two and Three – still reside there.
Then, there’s Sara’s spirituality – connection Number Four. She is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and, along with her husband, an active member of the Holdrege, Nebraska, congregation.
Finally, there are connections Five and Six – Sara’s Huskies, Diego and Isabel. Recently, Isabel had to be put to sleep, and the thought of it brings Sara to tears.
“I usually don’t cry this much,” says Sara, whose thoughts about Isabel switch to the topic of breast cancer. “I’ve been good when everybody else has been falling apart.”
Two types of breast cancer
In mid 2012, Sara found a spot on her breast. She thought nothing of it at first.
“I looked it up on a website,” she says. “I was shocked to find out that it was the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer.”
She immediately went to the doctor. Test after test lead to an inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis. A second form of cancer also showed up from a mammogram.
“I have two types of breast cancer,” she explains. “My brother says I’m an ‘overachiever.’”
Despite her diagnoses, Sara has managed to stay grounded. She has finished her sixth round of chemo, and the doctors feel positive about her battle with cancer. The next round of treatment will involve a mastectomy and radiation.
“Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive type of breast cancer,” Sara says. “It looks like a hard spot on your breast, like the skin of an orange. It has stippling to it. I had it a few months before I figured out what it was.”
Help from the VNA
Sara first heard about Susan G. Koman for the Cure® from her mother.
“She works for attorneys (in Wichita, Kansas), and one of the attorneys’ wives, Sue Crockett, has had breast cancer,” Sara says. “She’s affiliated with the local chapter of the Komen Foundation. She told my mom to call Komen.”
That call eventually put Sara in touch with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) in Nebraska. Cindy Calhoun, the director, helped out Dan and Sara by providing them with gas cards to alleviate some of the expense of driving to Kearney for treatments.
“She talked to me about my cancer. She calls periodically to see how we’re doing. Whenever I have concerns, or just want to bounce ideas off of her, she listens and calls back with information.”
“I’m very blessed,” Sara says. “My congregation has been wonderful.”
Christian meetings are important to Sara. To benefit from them, the members of her congregation ran speaker wires to a separate room, where she can listen and participate in the program. This allows Sara to be close to her congregation, but also to be protected from germs, since the chemotherapy has weakened her immune system.
“The congregation has been great about helping out with meals,” she adds.
How is Sara’s husband holding up?
“He’s doing pretty good. Of course, until we got the tests back, he had me at Stage 4. I’m like, ‘Daniel, I’m sure it’s fine.’ The PET scan says it hasn’t spread, so he’s doing better emotionally. He’s putting one foot in front of the other now.”
A week after Sara’s first chemo treatment, Dan found out he had to change his job. He works for a local farmer, but because of Sara’s treatment he could no longer fulfill his job requirements. He’s looking for a job with flexibility so that he can take Sara to her treatments.
How does Sara sum up her fight against breast cancer?
“It makes you more caring toward other people and the problems they have,” Sara says.“Everybody has issues. Everybody has problems. I feel more empathetic to other people’s plights.”
She adds: “At the beginning, I was often up in the middle of the night, because chemo sometimes gives you insomnia,” she says. “I’d read articles in the Watchtower on endurance. I kept thinking, ‘I can’t do this. Okay. Yes, I can do this.’ It has made me pare down to the basics and not worry about peripheral things. I have set priorities – ‘to do this, this and this, I have to give up this and this’ – and, you know, it’s okay.”
Sara Vonderfecht and her husband, Dan, lead an active spiritual life.
Sara and Dan love to travel. Here they are on vacation in Grand Turk Island.
Sara loves her Huskies, Isabel (left) and Diego. Diego has one blue eye. Isabel, sadly, was recently put to sleep.
Sara is close to her parents who live in Wichita, Kansas. Sara’s mom had a contact at work who helped bring the family in touch with Komen Nebraska.