Vickie Hegeholz promised her mother she would get a mammogram every year. On the day of her first mammogram, Hegeholz’s mother died of breast cancer at age 56.
Later on, Hegeholz got a call from her doctor on May 24, 2018, around 4:15 p.m.
“I remember her calling...” Hegeholz said. “So I went over there and I remember walking in. She was going through breast cancer at the time, too, and (she was in a) beautiful white dress and a bald head, and she says ‘Vickie this is not what I want to tell you, but you have breast cancer.’ I said, ‘That’s OK. Earth is not my home. Heaven is my home.”
Hegeholz was soon contacted by Advanced Medical Imaging in Lincoln.
“They said, ‘Well when do you want to do it (MRI)?’ I said, ‘the sooner the better. I want to get right on top of this and keep going.’” she said. “‘Well we have today’ so I said ‘OK.’”
After her MRI, Hegeholz and her husband left for vacation. Dr. Connie Novak called Hegeholz and told her that the MRI found spots on both breasts.
After hearing the news, Hegeholz turned to God.
“I just remember driving the four-wheeler and just the first time I ever said ‘God, I have cancer! I cannot do this alone. And I know You’re with me always, and that You will be my solid rock.’ And once I said that it’s like the weight of the world is taken off your shoulders, because I am in His care,” she said.
Hegeholz and her husband came back from vacation a day early for her to have a bilateral MRI guided biopsy. The biopsy found that the spots in the right breast were not cancerous, but the spots in the left one were. That is when Hegeholz turned to her family for some help.
“I texted my daughter who worked out at Nebraska Heart in Lincoln and my sister-in-law who’s a psychologist and works in Fillmore County. I said ‘I need an oncologist.’ Within minutes they both texted me back Dr. Mark Hutchins,” she said.
Because Hegeholz’s mother had died of breast cancer and her mother lost two aunts to breast cancer as well, her oncologist suggested genetic testing.
“He called me on the second of July and he said ‘You are BRCA2 positive,’ which is a hereditary gene that’s passed down from generation to generation,” she said. “What’s comforting about that is my kids need to be tested and if they do not have the gene, then their children are not affected, but it’s a 50/50 chance. And if they do at least they know. My daughter would have to have mammograms consistently. My son should be tested also because breast cancer isn’t just for women. Men can have it, too.”
Dr. Hutchins was unsure how to treat her cancer since she was BRCA2 positive. BRCA2 is a genetic mutation meaning she had a higher risk of developing breast cancer and a risk of it returning if not treated properly.
Hegeholz said her oncologist decided to see how her cancer would react to chemotherapy first, before starting other treatments.
Hegeholz went to see Dr. Rick Windle to place in her portacath, which allows easy access to veins, for chemotherapy. Hegeholz had her first chemotherapy treatment on July 26.
She went through six rounds of chemotherapy, her last one on Nov. 6. Hegeholz always had many friends and family with her at her appointments to support her.
After finding out Hegeholz had BRCA2, Dr. Windle said the next possible place for the cancer to spread would be her ovaries. Hegeholz then decided she wanted a double mastectomy and a full hysterectomy.
She told her doctors she wanted to do all of the surgeries at once. Her surgeons Drs. Windle and Mathieu Henz, and OB-GYN Dr. Gregory Heidrick had done the surgery together in the past.
On Dec. 18, Hegeholz was told to prepare for a six-hour surgery for her mastectomies and hysterectomy.
“It only took the three of them a little over three hours. So my family was a little concerned when the doctors started coming out because they were told a good six hours,” she said.
Hegeholz returned to work on Jan. 30. Right now, Hegeholz is in the phase called no evidence of disease. She goes in for check ups once in a while but she said she might try and find a support group.
“Just in the last month, I started thinking I might try to look one up because it was close to 70 times going back and forth to Lincoln. You’re just so busy, everything to keep appointments and now it’s all over and you just kind of go ‘What do I do with myself?’” she said. “You become friends with all those doctors in doctors’ offices. They’re like family to you and that’s how I truly felt I was treated.”
Hegeholz has many pieces of advice for those going thorough breast cancer.
“Always make sure you have someone with you at your visits. I was known to have an entourage at chemo things,” she said. “Be proactive yourself in your treatment. Don’t always just rely on the doctors and everybody to get back to you. Make yourself a notebook, because you’re not going to remember everything. Try to organize yourself somewhat. Do not think you can continue on yourself doing everything like you used to do at home.”
Hegeholz had her husband help her with little tasks around the house she could no longer keep up with. She also said to be open about your process.
“Accept help and be open. I have pretty much shared my whole journey all along. I’ve been very open with it, and the reason for that, I feel, if my experience can help someone, I would like people to know. Make sure you’re having your mammograms.”
Hegeholz learned a lot going through her process. She said her life has changed.
“The little things you thought meant a lot, mean nothing. For me, my focus is on being the best person I can be and continually praying to God that He gives me the strength I need to get through all this even though nothing is actively going on now,” she said. “My family, they are pretty foremost. That’s what I concentrate on. I don’t worry about anything because I know God will provide. If my dishes don’t get done, they’ll be there tomorrow.”
Since having no evidence of disease Hegeholz can be found spending time with her grandchildren when she is not working at Seward Memorial Hospital as a billing coordinator.