It started with a simple touch, and the feeling of a lump, Sabel recalls. From there, a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy confirmed a breast cancer diagnosis.
“While it’s not a four letter word, it’s a bad word - cancer,” Sabel says. “But, now looking back, I can proudly say I had it and survived thanks to great healthcare providers and family. While it is a journey that hasn’t ended yet, I am not traveling alone.”
Sabel still vividly remembers the conversation sharing her diagnosis.
“‘Keri, we have the results of your biopsy so why don’t you come on over so we can talk with you about it,’ was the conversation I was having with Kay Groeschl, an Agnesian HealthCare breast health coordinator. I thought - if it wasn’t bad news she wouldn’t need to see me. I knew I had cancer. I didn’t shed a tear. I knew I would get through this. I had too. I have a darling husband and three sons whom I adore. I can beat this and I know just how.”
Sabel works with Agnesian HealthCare’s Dale Michels Center for Heart Care cardiac team, which has a strong collaboration with Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin. It’s then that she approached R. Eric Lilly, MD, a Medical College of Wisconsin cardiothoracic surgeon who serves patients at St. Agnes Hospital, as well as the Agnesian Cancer Center.
“His advice was that we have the best cancer care center around,” Sabel says. “You have everything you need and superior care right here in Fond du Lac. He was right.”
In consultation with Toni Stanley, MD, a board-certified general surgeon, Sabel and her husband, Brad, chose to proceed with a double mastectomy. At Dr. Stanley’s side was Richard Schaefer, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon, to perform the reconstructive surgery.
“The fact that I work with Dr. Stanley on a routine basis on coordinating individual patient needs for their reconstruction makes continued care ideal for the patient and family,” Dr. Schaefer says. “We put a lot of effort into making sure we pick a timeline and reconstructive process that meets our patients’ needs so they do not need to travel elsewhere for care.”
Sabel has been receiving both chemotherapy and Herceptin therapy treatments at the Agnesian Cancer Center, where she says the providers, nurses and other associates are “empathetic and caring.”
“I am very passionate about helping others on their journey of survival and recovery. Until it happens to you, you just don’t know how you will handle it. While it was scary, I did it.”