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Stay Strong, Kari On

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 11:19 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, April 4, 2013 11:24 a.m. CST
(Submitted Photo)
"Kari's Krew" from left to right, Stephanie Annee, Darci Henning, Stacy Foreman, group namesake Kari Tiffany, Nancy Andrew, Shoni Lust all pose in their "Fight Like a Girl" T-shirts the day before Kari's surgery for breast cancer. The Krew has since branched out into charitable endeavors.

Kari Tiffany knew her family had a history of breast cancer, so at 36, she went in for her first mammogram.

It came out negative, and by her own admission, she was a “bad girl” and didn’t have her second mammogram until she was 42. That time she wasn’t as fortunate.

“I just went for a routine mammogram, because I had a strong family history of breast cancer,” Kari said. “I didn’t even get out of the hospital and they were calling my cell phone saying, ‘We see a little something here and we would like to have you come back.’ I went from having a routine mammogram to having both my breasts removed in two weeks’ time.”

“Of course I did the biopsy (after the call) and it came back cancerous,” Kari continued. “I did have the choice to have one removed or both removed, but I didn’t want to worry about it coming back in the other breast so I had a double mastectomy, with reconstruction. I was fortunate enough that we caught it early. So I didn’t have to go through the traditional chemo and I have to take a medication that’s just for breast cancer for the next five years.”

Tiffany received all her treatments locally at Skiff Medical Center, which she strongly advocates for.

“I really want to emphasize I had every thing done here locally here in Newton,” Kari said. “My surgeries, my doctors, everything was done at Skiff. I was really, really happy with the care I received at Skiff Medical Center.”

What sold Tiffany on Skiff’s services was their efficiency in treating her.

“I was first diagnosed on November 29,” Kari said. “I got the phone call from Dr. Groban and he said, ‘The biopsy came back and you have breast cancer.’ Not the words I had planned on hearing that morning, but it was definitely a game-changer from then on. December 10, I had both my breasts removed at Skiff.”

“I was born and raised here (in Newton),” Kari continued. “I know a lot of people looked at me like, ‘Why in God’s name is she staying here to do all this?’ I wouldn’t change a thing, I wouldn’t change a thing in the world. I had fabulous care at Skiff. Originally, I called this breast cancer clinic out in Des Moines when I got my diagnosis on the 29th. They couldn’t even get me in for 10 days. Within 10 days, I had had my surgery scheduled and my other biopsies and I was ready to roll here at Skiff. They were calling me before I could even walk out the hospital (after the initial diagnosis). I was treated as a person and not something that was thrown on a desk somewhere.”

When fighting any kind of disease, prevention and timely care are necessary to win the battle, something Kari can attest.

“It’s big-time proof about mammograms,” Kari said “Had I waited a year, I would be fighting for my life, had I not had a routine mammogram, I would have had a mess on my hands, I’m very, very fortunate.”

Since that initial diagnosis, Kari is almost 100 percent cancer free. She has an upcoming appointment with her oncologist to determine if it’s truly gone. However, she hasn’t taken her bout with cancer lightly and is the namesake of a new local campaign, “Stay Strong, Kari On.”

Kari’s campaign raised money to pay her medical bills, has inspired local citizens to adorn pink “Kari On” wristbands and T-shirts, and she donates funds to the Skiff mammogram fund and to Relay for Life.

She credits the success of her campaign to the ladies that make up “Kari’s Krew” — who are currently selling “Kari’s Krew” T-shirts for $15 with all proceeds going to Relay for Life, and her family — her husband Curt, daughter Abby, and her son Trent.

“My husband is absolutely amazing,” Kari said. “He said, ‘Listen to me, we are going to fight through it.’ He was wonderful.”

Kari is returning to work and has a whole new outlook on life, thanks to her ordeal.

“(Fighting cancer) just proves to me how short life is,” Kari said. “I had three or four months to fight it. I’m really going to live now. I know how short and how precious life is.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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