Thrive by IU Health

October 27, 2023

Mother-of-two triumphs over breast cancer

IU Health North Hospital

Mother-of-two triumphs over breast cancer

By Emma Avila,, writer for IU Health’s Indianapolis Suburban Region

A 34-year-old mother discovered she had breast cancer through breastfeeding. Now, she advocates for awareness and early detection.

Teresa Rathburn is a 34-year-old wife and mother of two. While she was nursing her second child in February of this year, she discovered an area of concern in one of her breasts.

“Something just felt off,” she says. “It didn’t really feel like a lump. It felt like a denser area.”

She went to her obstetrician, who suggested imaging.

“I had six tumors on my left side,” she recalls. “After that, I had a biopsy.”

On her son’s first birthday, she got the dreaded call. She had breast cancer.

The journey through treatment

After her diagnosis, Rathburn transferred her care to the IU Health Joe & Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center in Carmel. Her husband works as a physician assistant at IU Health North.

Rathburn met with Dr. Kandice Ludwig, a surgical oncologist.

“She went through my biopsy pathology,” Rathburn says. “She was amazing. She laid out the path of what my journey might look like.”

Rathburn underwent a double mastectomy on March 14 at IU Health North.

Unfortunately, her journey wasn’t over. The next step was 12 weeks of chemotherapy, which she started in April.

“It was a lower dose chemo,” she says. “I did ok with the side effects on it, but I had reactions with the first couple of infusions.”

After chemo, she began radiation for five days per week for five weeks in September. Her last day was October 11.

Teresa Rathburn and her husband, Casey, after she completed radiation

“It felt really good. I was really emotional,” she says. “I didn’t expect to cry, but I cried. I was so proud of myself for getting through treatment.”

Now, Rathburn continues immunotherapy infusions until April of next year. She also sees a physical therapist for arm tightness.

“I’m so grateful we live so close and this entire team is so amazing.”

Finding a light in the darkness

Though she would never wish for her circumstances, she is focusing on the positives of the hand she’s been dealt.

“This has just woken me up,” she explains. “I felt like I failed. I felt like I did something wrong, but that’s not true. I can equip myself mentally and physically to heal. It kind of saved me in that aspect because there were parts of my life I needed to work on and am still working on.”

Rathburn also joined the IU Health Schwarz Cancer Center’s team for the Susan G. Komen More Than Pink Walk this year, which raises money to help find a cure for breast cancer.

“It was great. I had some friends and family come,” she says. “Getting together with the IU Health team was great too. I felt very supported.”

Advocating for other women

Now, Rathburn hopes that by sharing her story, other women will pay attention to their bodies.

“I have no family history of breast cancer,” she says. “I’m a huge advocate for early detection. If something feels off, get it checked out. Know yourself and know your body.”

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