As the nation brings awareness to breast cancer throughout October, the month now holds a different significance for local Krista Neubert. 

On the first day of October last year, Neubert received a call from her doctor, telling her of the diagnosis. At the age of 49, Neubert had breast cancer. 

“Before, I always felt sorry for those with cancer, but I’ve since realized it can happen to anyone,” Neubert said. “I’m grateful to be a survivor; I’ve made it through.”

The wife and mother of three first had an uneasy feeling about a cancer diagnosis in June 2018 after she did a self-examination and found an unusual lump on her left breast. 

At the time, Neubert and her husband, Tim, were preparing to send their son, Cade, to college in Indiana. Their eldest son, Cole, was in Duluth, and youngest child, Claire, would soon begin her sophomore year at Sauk Centre High School.

Neubert waited until fall for further tests.

“When I went in, what the doctor felt was a cyst, which is what I also felt,” she said. “But, we did a mammogram and ordered an ultrasound.”

Following the ultrasound, Neubert had a biopsy to test a tumor mass that was discovered behind the cyst. The test was on a Friday afternoon.

By Monday morning, Neubert heard from her doctor – the mass contained estrogen and progesterone receptors, indicating cancerous cells.

“As soon as they ordered a biopsy, I just knew things weren’t going to end well,” Neubert said. “It was a long weekend waiting to hear the news, but it was news I was ready to hear. There was really no emotion. I was confident God was in control and he would be there with me throughout the trial.”

While Neubert’s immediate family had bouts of cancer in the past – her father, prostate; mother, uterine; and sister, skin – breast cancer was not familial.

The Neuberts were hopeful they caught the cancer soon enough, so they quickly worked with doctors, surgeons and oncologists to develop a plan of action. Neubert’s options were vast – from removing the tumor and being on medication for several years, to total chest reconstruction, to removing her ovaries. 

It was also suggested Neubert have a genetic test to see if she carried a certain gene that made her more susceptible to future breast cancer and possibly ovarian cancer.

“The day we worked with the doctors and surgeons was exhausting,” Neubert said. “We learned about all of my options in one day, and that was such an overload I felt like I was run over by a Mack truck. And at that point, I was ready for total surgery so I did not have to deal with this again.”

Neubert and her family felt confident in the work of a surgeon from Abbott Northwest Hospital in Minneapolis.

With Neubert’s tumor measuring less than 1 centimeter and detected early, Neubert’s surgeon recommended removing the lump and undergoing radiation therapy rather than full reconstruction. The genetic test also came back negative, meaning Neubert likely does not carry the gene mutation that can cause breast cancer.

On Nov. 7, 2018, Neubert had a lumpectomy. In the six weeks that followed, she healed and prepared for four weeks of radiation therapy.

Neubert scheduled therapy Monday through Friday at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. During the week, she stayed at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in Minneapolis.

“I applied to stay there but was on a waiting list. Then, on the Friday before my treatment started, I got a call there was an opening,” Neubert said. “That was a lifesaver. It was a place to stay but also a community of people who had the same stories as you.”

While the radiation therapy appointments only lasted 15 minutes, she spent the rest of her days taking care of herself – eating healthy, exercising, and using her extra free time for prayer and Bible study.

Neubert rang the bell Jan. 8, signifying the end of her cancer treatment.

“I’m not Wonder Woman,” Neubert said. “I just took what life gave me and all the stressors, that’s how I dealt with it. I was coming home.”

She has since had routine follow-up appointments with her oncologist and must have a mammogram once a year in addition to self-examinations.

As Neubert reflects on the past year she and her family went through, she does not discount her communities of support which helped her through.

Staff at Dairy Queen in Sauk Centre all wore T-shirts in support of Neubert, the high school volleyball team presented the family with a huge care package, and Neubert’s son’s basketball team in Indiana prayed for her. Also, the family’s church provided encouragement with many prayers, meals and care packages.

“Our biggest struggles were learning how to deal with it,” Neubert said. “The tons of prayers and support we had from our local community, Facebook and even members of our health insurance … we felt very loved, supported and in good hands.”

Having gone through cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, Neubert hopes her experience may support someone else in their cancer journey.

“I realized how many people I met in my life, and now I can be that person for somebody else,” she said. “I received so much support from other local breast cancer survivors and that has encouraged me to be that support for others.”

Mark Klaphake contributed to this article.