October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Anyone can develop breast cancer, including men. Men and women are encouraged to have regular checkups and meet with their doctor if they have concerns or if something doesn’t feel right. Early detection and treatment are key for survival. In 2013, Holly Oppelt was having some problems, so she went to her doctor. This was the first step to her beating cancer.

Oppelt was referred to the OB/GYN at Trinity Muscatine, where they discovered she had uterine cancer. At the same time, Oppelt was due for a mammogram and the radiologist sat Oppelt down to explain they had found a lump. “It’s hard to remember what happened next, but I was referred to Trinity Muscatine’s surgeon for a lumpectomy, which proved to be Stage 1 cancer. Two days after my lumpectomy in Muscatine, I was meeting with an oncology surgeon at the University of Iowa to schedule another surgery. It was a very stressful time,” said Oppelt.

Oppelt’s story is much more positive than many other stories, especially because the doctors were able to treat her in the early stages. She said, “A week later [after the lumpectomy], I was at the U for a radical hysterectomy. Luckily, this was also Stage 1 cancer, which makes the odds for recovery even better.  Following some healing time, I had radiation on my breast and then preventative chemo and radiation for the uterine cancer.”

From receiving a diagnosis to meeting with doctors and beginning treatment, cancer patients go through many emotions and experiences that not everyone understands. “Later in 2013, I was introduced to a program sponsored by Gilda’s Club of the Quad Cities held at our local community Y.  I started meeting fellow survivors and decided to join the Wellness Group held the first and third Thursdays of the month at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Muscatine. What a great group for cancer survivors,” said Oppelt.

Oppelt said that while it is a difficult time, no one is alone in the process. She said, “During all of this, you learn so much. I encourage people to take notes and ask questions. That’s also where Gilda’s Club comes in so handy. They provide educational programs both in Davenport and Muscatine. Someone is always available to provide additional information if you need it. They have a staff person in Muscatine every Thursday in an office located at Senior Resources.”

Oppelt said, “Local residents should be aware that Muscatine County has one of the highest rates of severe breast cancer in the State of Iowa. We also have a high rate of all cancers! People should keep up on their annual exams and check with their doctor if they have any concerns.”