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Published on November 01, 2016

Bond through breast cancer

Bond through breast cancer

Michelle Farrell (left) and Theresa Brandt developed a close friendship while battling breast cancer.

Theresa Braudt and Michelle Farrell share a bond like no other. In fall of 2015, both healthcare professionals became patients after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I noticed dimpling during a self-exam," explains Theresa of her first suspicion of the disease. As a registered nurse and director of Patient Care Services at Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics, Theresa knows it's crucial to watch for breast changes.

Dimpling, when the skin's texture is similar to an orange peel, can be a sign of breast cancer. A follow up mammogram and ultrasound at Gundersen Boscobel Clinic confirmed Theresa's worst suspicion.

Michelle was diagnosed after a routine mammogram at Gundersen Boscobel Clinic. She is owner and chief pharmacist of Boscobel Pharmacy.

"My initial reaction was, 'I have 20 employees who count on me. I have a trip to Hawaii planned. And I'm the incoming president of the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin. I want to get back to regular Michelle as soon as I can,'" Michelle recalls, her voice quivering.

Already casual friends, Theresa and Michelle both grew up in the Boscobel area, sat on the Hospital Foundation's Board and shared a love of sports. Their fight against breast cancer has brought them closer together.

While undergoing surgery and follow up cancer care, they provided each other with moral support, including plenty of laughter and tears. Michelle helped Theresa with medications and Theresa helped Michelle perfect new exercise positions.

The two women also saw the same physicians at Gundersen La Crosse: surgeon Jared Linebarger, MD, and medical oncologist Leah Dietrich, MD.

"The care was phenomenal from the day I was diagnosed and throughout my recovery," Michelle says. "The coordination stood out most to me. I was very worried about having to make multiple trips to La Crosse. All of my appointments were consolidated beyond anything I ever imagined."

"We met with a team and they asked about my biggest fear," Theresa recalls. "I was most concerned about my family. The social worker took time to really listen to my husband, who was afraid of losing his wife. And they helped me find the best way to talk to my 9-year-old about cancer."

Partners in illness, Theresa and Michelle are now dear friends in recovery and beyond.

"I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to go through this with someone who was also receiving wonderful care," Michelle says. Theresa agrees, adding, "I think Michelle and I will be connected for life."

Cancer care comes to Boscobel

Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics now offers chemotherapy and cancer care by Gundersen Health System hematologist and medical oncologist David Marinier, MD, FACP.

It's the same high-quality care offered at Gundersen's Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders, including:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Treatment plans in place just days after diagnosis
  • Cancer specialists
  • A care team that treats cancer and the whole person
  • Cancer research studies

To schedule an appointment, talk to your primary care doctor or call the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders at (800) 362-9567, ext. 52385.