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Family Faith & Lexington Medical Center

Katie Feaster and Family

It was supposed to be the happiest time in Katie Feaster’s life. At age 25, the West Columbia woman and her husband Stacy were expecting their first baby.

In the middle of her second trimester, Katie’s baby bump was growing. But while most moms-to-be were happily shopping for nursery furniture and thinking about baby names, Katie noticed something troublesome.

There was a lump in her left breast that kept getting bigger and became uncomfortable.

“It was terrifying,” Katie said. “I had literally just gotten to the point where I was comfortable being pregnant. And now that.”

She told her OB/GYN Jennifer Greene, MD, FACOG, of Carolina Women’s Physicians at Lexington Medical Center about it. Dr. Greene ordered an ultrasound of Katie’s breast. Then radiologists performed a biopsy and sent samples to Pathology.

A few days later, Katie got a phone call no one ever wants to receive, especially at such a special time of life. At age 25 and six months pregnant, Katie learned she had breast cancer.

The Treatment Plan

Inside Lexington Medical Center, a multidisciplinary team of doctors came together to tackle Katie’s case.

Chelsea Stillwell, MD, of Lexington Oncology at Lexington Medical Cancer Center prescribed a chemotherapy regimen that was able to be administered safely because Katie was in the second trimester of pregnancy. If Katie were in the first trimester, the chemotherapy could have harmed the baby.

“They told me that if I was in my first trimester, I most likely would have miscarried,” Katie said.

Katie had a three-centimeter cancerous tumor in her left breast. Pathology showed it was triple-negative breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, TNBC accounts for about 10 – 15% of all breast cancers. The term “triple-negative” refers to the fact that the cancer cells don’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors, and don’t make any or too much of the protein called HER2. TNBC tends to be more common in women younger than age 40 and often grows and spreads faster than other types of breast cancer.

Katie’s grandmother and great-grandmother both had breast cancer, but genetic testing showed Katie did not carry any genes that made her more likely to develop the disease.

Through an IV, Katie received chemotherapy called Adriamycin, which is considered one of the strongest chemotherapy drugs ever invented. With its bright red color, its nickname is the “Red Devil.”

Because of her pregnancy, the only scan Katie could have was a chest CT. It showed a suspicious spot on her lung. But doctors couldn’t biopsy it because Katie was pregnant and the spot was too small. So, Katie endured her whole pregnancy not knowing if her cancer had spread behind her breast to Stage 4.

“Stage 2 I could handle, but Stage 4? I’m not sure,” she said.

With a team approach to her care, Katie also saw Paul C. Browne, MD, FACOG, of Lexington Maternal Fetal Medicine at Lexington Medical Center. Dr. Browne specializes in high-risk pregnancy.

Dr. Browne performed multiple ultrasounds during the pregnancy to make sure the baby was growing and explained to Katie the risks of the strong medicine she was taking to fight her cancer. He told her the chemotherapy could slow the baby’s growth. Thankfully, it did not.

“He was very matter-of-fact and to the point,” Katie said. “But the way he cares for his patients made everything feel like it was going to be OK.”

Self-Breast Health

As if that weren’t enough, Katie had even more on her mind. Notably, she had first felt a lump in her breast before she was pregnant. At that time, a doctor ordered an ultrasound, but radiologists couldn’t see anything on it. It was only when she told Dr. Greene about it at six months pregnant when the lump was clearly growing that Dr. Greene ordered further evaluation. And that’s when another ultrasound caught it.

“Most breast lesions in women in their 20s tend to be benign – non-cancerous,” said Dr. Greene. “But nonetheless, they can be anxiety provoking and we need to make sure young women have a health care source they can approach and say, ‘This is something that’s new for me, something I found at home – and I need to know if this is something I need to be worried about.’”

While most women don’t begin having mammograms until around age 40 and only seven percent of breast cancer cases occur in premenopausal women, Katie emphasizes being an advocate for your health.

“Pay attention to your body and if you don’t have a doctor who advocates for you, find another one,” she said. “I was lucky to have doctors who took me seriously.”

Welcoming A New Baby

Into her third trimester, all Katie wished for was a healthy baby. But at 33 weeks, she developed preeclampsia, a high blood pressure disorder that can occur during pregnancy. It can put stress on the heart and other organs, and impact the blood supply to the placenta.

At 35 weeks, doctors decided it was best to deliver Katie’s baby by c-section at Lexington Medical Center. Even though she arrived five weeks early and had endured strong chemotherapy while growing inside of her mother, baby Isla Feastercame roaring into the world as Lexington County’s newest resident on February 1, 2022, breathing on her own and perfectly healthy at 5 lb, 10 oz.

“She’s my miracle girl,” Katie said. “I want to be there to love her through everything and I want her to know this fight was for her.”

Postpartum Cancer Treatment

After Isla’s birth, Katie had a bone scan, full CT, mammogram, and another ultrasound.

And that spot on her lung from the CT during her pregnancy? It had grown. A pulmonologist at Lexington Medical Center ordered a biopsy of it and the result was outstanding news – it was non-cancerous.

Katie received four more rounds of chemotherapy after Isla’s birth and underwent a mastectomy. Currently, she takes oral chemotherapy as a preventative measure. And she’s going through the reconstruction process with a plastic surgeon. Because of the strong medication, Katie and her husband don’t know if they can have more children.

But her faith has never wavered.

“It’s all up to God if we’ll have more children,” she said.

Paying It Forward

With a thankful heart and tremendous faith, Katie is paying her experience forward.

She started making what she calls “Chemo Bags.” They’re full of items that helped her when she was first diagnosed such as a devotional and jewelry from Kendra Scott. She gives them to women who reach out to her on her popular Facebook page, “Katie’s Kickin’ Cancer.” She also has a wish list for items for the bags on Amazon, receiving boxes full of donated items from there on her front porch each day.

Katie has a message for other women from her experience.

“The biggest thing is having doctors you trust. Advocate for that,” she said. “Keep your faith and believe nothing is impossible when God is in control. It may seem impossible at first, but it’s not. There is life after having cancer.”

“It was terrifying,” Katie said. “I had literally just gotten to the point where I was comfortable being pregnant. And now that.”

“Pay attention to your body and if you don’t have a doctor who advocates for you, find another one,” she said. “I was lucky to have doctors who took me seriously.”