When novice marathon runner Karen Abbott was diagnosed with breast cancer, she wasn't sure she'd be able to continue training for her next race. Instead of running away from her diagnosis, she sought the best treatment possible and is now cancer-free thanks to the care teams at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento.
Immediately following her retirement in 2012, Abbott discovered a newfound passion for running. A friend invited her to start running with her as a way to enjoy the outdoors, stay in shape and work toward a goal. Shortly after, Abbott was training for her first marathon, running 5 miles a day. That first marathon—a 26-mile running event—soon followed.
As a goal-oriented, hard-working woman, Abbott always took a proactive approach to her health with yearly mammograms and pap smears. In early 2013, after a mammography and biopsy, she was given the news that she had breast cancer. She was referred to Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento cancer surgeon Gregory Graves, M.D., for treatment. The Sutter care team coordinated her follow-up and Abbott was identified as a candidate for Intrabeam surgery—a revolutionary treatment for breast cancer that delivers radiation during breast-conserving surgery, eliminating weeks from a traditional radiation treatment plan. Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento is the only hospital in the greater Sacramento area to offer Intrabeam.
"My care team was amazing," Abbott says. "Dr. Graves provided a thorough explanation of my treatment options and worked with me to create my treatment plan. I had not heard about Intrabeam technology, but I felt very comfortable after asking questions and getting my concerns addressed."
Following the surgery, she experienced only slight discomfort and no pain.
"I was surprised with how quickly I recovered," Abbott says. "I was back to training for the marathon the week after my surgery. I don't know how to explain it except to say that Dr. Graves and my care team at Sutter helped make it possible."
Three months after the March 2013 Intrabeam surgery, Karen ran her second marathon and achieved a personal best, shaving 12 minutes from her first marathon run time.
"I was ecstatic about finishing the marathon and improving my time in spite of having a diagnosis of breast cancer just weeks before," Abbott says.
Now that her treatment is finished, Abbott has plans to complete at least one marathon per year. She says she couldn't have followed her newfound passion if it weren't for Sutter Health.
"I am amazed and grateful every day that I had access to the level of care that Sutter provides and that the breast cancer was caught early. My hope is that other women in similar circumstances will benefit from learning about my story!"