“It is amazing what we human beings can do when we are challenged. I’m a fighter. I looked at the plan and said, ok, let’s get it done.” – Katie Totten on receiving her treatment plan for her breast cancer diagnosis in 2018.
Katie Totten, 47, is Senior Vice President and Regional Strategic Growth and Sales Manager for William Raveis Real Estate offices located in Greater Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. Katie, an athlete and marathon runner, was diagnosed with Triple Positive, Her2 Breast Cancer in 2018. She was treated at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, one of the recipients of the Ride + Walk fundraising.
One in six women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Katie is sharing her story at the 2021 Raveis Ride + Walk to continue to help raise funds and awareness for cancer research. She has been cancer free since 2020.
How did you know something was wrong and what were your first symptoms?
Like many people right before they are diagnosed with cancer, I felt fine. But, then I discovered a small lump in my breast. I contacted my doctor immediately, a biopsy was conducted and it was identified as a malignant tumor.
How did you approach your treatment?
My treatment became a family decision. Known as one of the top cancer treatment centers in the country, we immediately moved my care to Dana-Farber in Boston. It was so important for us to go where cutting-edge research was being performed.
As a family, we talked through the pros and cons of everything. We did our due diligence, we got second opinions, weighed my options and came up with a treatment plan with my doctors. I completed chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy over 15 months.
How did the support of family and friends help you throughout the disease and treatment?
My friends and family were wonderful. My partner, Richard, accompanied me to every doctor appointment, chemotherapy session, and surgery. My friends flew in from all over the country to just sit in my living room and pass the time. Friends were dropping off meals and offering rides. Everyone wanted to step in and help. It is very humbling when so many people come out to support you. I am grateful that I had such an extensive support system.
What were some of the most important factors in getting through your treatment?
My doctors and the Dana-Farber Institute staff were phenomenal, really the top notch in the industry. When you are diagnosed with cancer, there are so many moving parts. Dana-Farber coordinated every piece so we didn’t have to worry, and that was essential for me. I was able to focus on being a mother and maintaining as much of a normal life as I could.
What helped you keep going as you navigated through this diagnosis and treatment?
My family was the most important thing to me as I navigated through this disease. It is a long road. When the doctor hands you a worksheet with 15 months of treatment, it feels incredibly overwhelming. For me, the best approach was to look at the plan and break it down into segments. It is amazing what we human beings can do when we are challenged. I’m a fighter. I looked at the plan and said, ok, let’s get it done.
What has surprised you the most?
It surprised me how common my experience is – how we all know people who have been touched by cancer.
What do you want people to understand about the impact of the Raveis Ride + Walk?
The Raveis Ride + Walk is so important to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. My form of cancer, triple positive Her2 breast cancer, is an aggressive form of cancer that impacts primarily young women. If I had been diagnosed even five years prior, the treatment would have been far different. We would be talking about managing my care. Now, because of research into new treatment drugs – work that both Dana-Farber Institute and Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation are doing – women like me have a 99% survival rate!
What does it mean to you to be able to ride 50 miles this year?
I feel like me again. I am an athlete. Being able to ride 50 miles this year and being cancer free is amazing. I am so grateful to have a second chance in life.