My heart breaks each time I hear about another cancer diagnosis; and then it jumps for joy when I hear a survival story! This one falls in the latter category—but with a twist that will have you sitting up and taking notice!
This episode’s inspiring conversation is with Kerry Press.
Surviving cancer is one thing, but to find out after all the surgeries that they may not have been necessary is a real kick in the gut.
Kerry is a shining example of how knowledge is power and being our own health advocate is essential.
This is another inspiring conversation in our series with women learning what it means to thrive. Don’t miss it. I invite you to watch our video conversation on RHGTV Network—the Empowered Connections Channel…
or read the transcript of our conversation below:
from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition
Kerry Press: If I Had Only Known
~María: Hello and welcome to from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition.
I’m so excited to be here with you. This is my continuing series of conversations with strong, supportive women who have an inspiring story of their own transformation to tell and they’re courageous enough to share it with us here.
Today’s guest is Kerry Press. She has survived a double mastectomy, cancer, but this story is more about what she learned after the fact that will help us become better advocates for our own health.
So listen up. Welcome, Kerry!
~Kerry Press: Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for having me, Maria.
~M: So we called this episode, “If I Had Only Known… ” So I am so honored that you are here with us today to tell us your story. So would you do that now?
~K: I will tell my story and I will tell you that I make it emotional and if I do, I’m not apologizing for it, Okay?
~M: Good for you.
~K: So my story is in 2008, I went from my first mammogram, ever in my life. I was 42 years old and at that time, at that appointment, I was told that I had micro-calcifications of the right breast and after meeting with the breast surgeon based on those results, the choices I was given was three: I could have a lumpectomy with chemo and radiation; I could have a single mastectomy, with probably no chemo, probably would need radiation; or I could have a double mastectomy probably wouldn’t need chemo or radiation, and if I had a double mastectomy, it would reduce my chances of recurrence from 25% to less than 2%. And at 42 years old, that’s really what I was focusing on, I was focusing on how am I going to beat this so that I don’t have to go through this again.
So at that time, knowing what I knew at that time, I chose to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction. And that was a two-year ordeal with first the surgery of removing the breast and then the reconstruction thereafter. I’ll tell you that I had eight surgeries in 16 months, from start to finish, and it was not easy. You’re led to believe that it’s just a surgical procedure and will expand the tissue, and the skin will put implants, you’ll be reconstructed and everything will be okay. But that wasn’t necessarily what it was all about, it was much more complicated than that, and it was much more difficult than that. At two points during that reconstruction process. I had infections. Infections that were a part of the expansion process so that had to hold everything and then that was whole another series of tests and procedures in order to fight the infection before we could continue, pick up where we left off with the reconstruction. So that was, it was a long, tough battle in and of itself.
~M: Oh my goodness. I just can’t imagine what that must have been like for you. I thank God, I have not had a diagnosis like that.
I know a lot of women who have. It must have been devastating news, and scary being given those three options.
So I know that you have learned something since. You said to me, at one point, in one of our conversations that you learned that rather than being that have been having early-stage breast cancer and given those options, you were probably at in the stage of chronic inflammation. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
~K: Yes. So since that time in the last 10 years, life has definitely changed, much of it for the better, and I’ll get into a little bit more about that later, but I have since learned the diagnosis that I had was, in fact, the end-stage of chronic inflammation and not necessarily the beginning stage of breast cancer. So let me clarify a little bit. After I had my diagnosis and while I was going through the reconstruction process, I had lost a dear friend to breast cancer, and just before Angie had passed, she had shared with me that she had wished that she had done what I did, meaning the very aggressive in fighting her breast cancer. With that piece of information that propelled me to get out and share my story, so I started doing a lot of public speaking and just really sharing my story.
I didn’t have a message, I didn’t have do this and don’t do that, really, it was a matter of if I can do it, you can do it. We can be strong and we can get through this. With that public speaking, though, my platform grew, and it grew big and fast, and I was speaking to audiences all across the country, again, just sharing my story. And at one of the events where I was a keynote speaker, I was approached by a group that said, “We’d love to collaborate with you, Kerry. Your story and what we do go hand in hand.” And that was the moment that I was introduced to thermography or thermal imaging. From that day, four years of research, study, working with this team, investment, financial investment, vetting, really trying to understand what thermal imaging was all about, I not only learned that it was such an invaluable tool that we don’t know about, but I also learned something very important about my diagnosis. So two points I wanna make here, the first is thermal imaging or thermography has been around since 1956, has been available to us in the United States since 1956. It has been FDA approved as an adjunct, not a replacement for, but as an adjunct to breast health screening and now full-body health screenings. When I learned just that information I was blown away and the first question I had was, “Why did I not know about this? Then I learned how invaluable a thermal scan would have been for me. I learned that my diagnosis of micro-calcifications could have very well been the end stage of chronic inflammation, not the beginning stage of breast cancer, and the only tool that would have given me that information or that insight, would have given me the rest of the story, the rest of the picture would have been a thermal scan. It would have really opened me up to so many more options than those three that I had.
~M: That is just amazing to me. I had not heard about it before I met you at some months ago, either. And I don’t know how many other… And I take a very active role in my own health and in my husband’s health care. So I am amazed about the fact that this tool is not widely understood or known about.
I’d like to get into, before we get into more about what you learned about thermal imaging and how it can help others, I would love to take a deeper dive into the emotional roller coaster ride you went on during this time of your diagnosis and the multiple surgeries over that long period of time. So I’d like to learn how you manage through and continue to strive for more knowledge, so you could help others. So, would you share that with us in our next segment?
~K: Sure, absolutely!
~M: That’s great. Thank you so much! And we’ll be right back for the next part of my conversation with Kerry Press on from Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition.
~M: Hi! I’m chatting with Kerry Press about her journey through cancer, double mastectomy, and what she learned after that. We call this episode, “If I had only known… ” It’s always a special honor to share inspiring stories like Kerry’s. These women have figured out how to move through life’s inevitable trials and tribulations, and come out on top, in triumph, and teach us something on the way. They help us to know that we’re not alone, and it will help us when life turns us upside down the next time. I appreciate that you’re sharing this story with us, Kerry. I hope it will open the channels of communication for women with their own health care providers. Too many women have gone through similar health challenges, and I would love for you to just take a few minutes and share that emotional journey that you went on through your challenge.
~K: Well, let me give you a little bit of history so that you can imagine, if you will, the blow that this was for me at the time. When I was 42 years old, I was just newly married, only about a year. I had just was awarded my dream job, I had all that I have aspired to, I had just achieved that professional goal of mine. I was a Regional Director for a large Fortune 100 company in the waste industry, I had spent 15 years prior to that, in Corporate America, in the airline industry, in management and life was really good.
My husband and I, again, newly married, we were both at the regional director level within our organizations, we were traveling the country doing aspiring and fulfilling our career mission and things were really good. And then when I went for that mammogram on that day, not even thinking that there was a possibility there would be anything wrong, again, many women attribute their level of care and their concern to family history. And I will tell you that family history is only five percent of breast cancer diagnosis, so it really is irrelevant. But I went in thinking, there is no family history, and I feel healthy. This is just a routine screening, everything is fine.
And when that radiologist came into me after the imaging was done, and reviewed, and said, “We need to proceed forward because this is micro-calcifications that require some sort of treatment.” My world stopped, stopped and I remember I left the office composed, I got in the car and behind while I’m still parked in the parking lot at the imaging clinic, I lost it, I lost it, I just fell apart, and that was the beginning. That was the beginning of falling apart.
So I proceeded to do all the things that I was supposed to do, meaning the consultations and so on, and so forth, and scheduled the surgery and felt like I was going to be a warrior in all of this, I was going to get through it, I was gonna put my armor on and go head first, get through it, be done and pick up where I left off. That’s kind of the key, I didn’t get to pick up where I left off. My first surgery was the actual double mastectomy, the removable of both my breasts, of course, that was a six to eight-week recovery. During that six to eight-week period, I had to go back into the hospital, the stitches had actually disintegrated before the wounds had healed so everything had broke open. So I do go back in for a second procedure, which was pretty scary and ugly.
And when I finally went back to work, I think it was eight weeks. I went in on Monday and on Friday, my boss, who was the Regional Vice President came and sat at my desk and said. “We are eliminating the department in which you are head of and we are laying you off.”
So at that point, I have to tell you from an emotional perspective, I was of the mindset I need to save my life, I was not of the mindset I need to save my job. So, in all honesty, I bowed out gracefully and took that as a blessing in disguise. Though, I didn’t know what the blessing would be. That okay, this is what’s supposed to happen, I will take it for what it is.
So I came to grips with the fact that I still have a long road ahead of me as far as recovery is concerned, but I’ve gotta move forward. And forward I moved, forward I moved. And so during that recess of… Yes, going through the reconstruction and all of the surgeries I also spent a lot of my time and effort helping others and made my stuff available to anybody, whether it be a woman, a man, a family member, a loved one, a friend, a caretaker, whoever it was, made myself available to help anybody that was going through some sort of life change, some sort of devastating diagnosis and even breast cancer. And my phone, Maria, rang off the hook, there were so many contexts, there were so many connections, there were so many friends, there were so many loved ones that would reach out to me during that transition time and again, that really propelled me.
I’ve got a juice, I need to get out there to be a resource and I need to help as many women, men, family members, loved ones, friends that I possibly can. And that’s where the public speaking then came into play and sharing my story really gave me the strength and the power that I needed to get through this myself.
I will tell you though the hardest part from an emotional perspective was not only the realization, and I might get upset, the realization that life, my work life, had changed, but there were certain peaks and valleys of this journey that were more difficult than others. And the hardest part of this journey was making the decision as to how was going to that. I was given choices and though, there were many choices, that many other choices I should have also been given, but making those decisions at a time where you are just emotionally spent is such a hard place to be when you’re battling in your head with your heart when you’re battling your strengths with your fear, when you’re battling your courage with your cowardness. It is such a difficult place to be. And when I made myself available to all of those that reached out to me and shared with them, “Look I support whatever decision it is that you make. It’s a very personal decision and I know where you are in your head and in your heart.” That was the biggest gift that I could have given, and I received so much in return for that. I received so much comfort and value, I felt so valued in return for that. And then it led me to where I am today. That public speaking led me to learning about thermography. Again, it was like I had gone from the first step to the next floor of really the value that I could bring to others, and when I learned the value of thermography and what it would have meant for me, inside there was such a compelling revelation that not only what this would have done for me, but now I am on a mission to bring this to others. My heart has been filled every single day that I go into the office and see clients. Every day my heart is filled. And to be able to help others, whether it be a breast cancer diagnosis or just health in general, there’s nothing more valuable, there’s nothing more powerful than that.
~M: Kerry, thank you for being so transparent about your emotional journey. I love what you said that there are those ebbs and flows that we go through, battling your fear, battling your cowardice, and finding the opposite of those that propel you forward and then finding ways to help others while you are going on your own journey. It’s a powerful tool that we can all learn from. It takes us out of our own situation and allows us to see someone else’s, and see how we might be able to share our journey with them to help them in their journey.
There’s so much power in that, and I appreciate what you do, so much, because you are on a mission. I would love for you to share some of those compelling tips that you have learned with our audience. So I’m gonna ask everyone to just wait here for just half a minute, so you don’t miss some of the wisdom that Kerry’s gonna share with us next.
~M: Thanks for hanging in with us. I like to call this segment, “Saving the Best for Last”, because it’s why we call this show, “Tips for the Transition.”
Let me share a bit more about Kerry Press. When Kerry was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she told you in 2008, she knew nothing about the thermography as a diagnostic option. At that time, she was led down that path of fear and urgency by her doctors, and she chose to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction because that’s all she thought she could do. At that time, it was fear that drove her. All for what turned out to be potentially chronic inflammation with no lymph node involvement. So that just scares the daylights out of me.
Kerry truly does believe that if she had known about thermography, she would still have her breasts today.
As a result of all that Kerry Press has learned through her own journey, she is now on a mission, as I said before, to help others become better advocates for their own health, not just breast health but total health.
She is the Founder and President of Thermal Imaging Centers of America, as a result of all she’s been through. I get goosies when I say that because she is someone who has literally found her purpose and followed it.
Women like Kerry, our role models for the rest of us when it comes to learning to thrive.
I’m so inspired by you, Kerry, I often say that these are inspiring conversations with women and everyone else will be inspired. But I am first, the first to be inspired by you. Thank you so much for sharing your story and helping others to have a different conversation about their health.
I know that you have some special tips to share with us. So, would you share some of those nuggets of wisdom now?
~K: I will, and thank you so much, Maria, it’s so nice to hear the appreciation. It warms my heart. And I do think the power that’s given to me, that’s God that I was led to, eyes wide open, ears listening and heart open to fulfilling my purpose and I’m so grateful for that.
I think in the 10 years since my diagnosis and where I am today and the five years of being the President and Founder of Thermal Imaging Centers of America. There are a few tips. There are few things that I say often and when I’m sharing with others, and in trying to help them on their journey and one of the things, one of the many things that I say is, if we do not invest in our wellness now, we are going to be paying for our illness later. And I’m not going to get into the state of healthcare and healthcare insurance and all of that in this discussion but truly if we’re not investing in our wellness we are going to be paying for our illness, It’s so vitally important, especially in today’s day and age.
The other thing I say when it comes to thermography and all of the other tools that are out there, there is not one silver bullet there is not one answer, and for us to think that there is would be foolish. However, it is important for us to gather as much information as we possibly can. And I tell folks all the time, if thermography is not your first opinion, it has to be your second.
And I encourage anybody with any diagnosis whether it be something as minor as a sore shoulder or something as devastating as a cancer diagnosis, don’t go with just one opinion. You’ve got to have a second, a third, and even a fourth, and please have thermography. Include thermography as part of those opinions and a part of your decision-making process.
I talked a lot about how thermography would have given me the rest of the story or the complete picture, it would have been the piece of the puzzle that would have given me so many more options in so much more insight as to what my actual diagnosis was, by no means, am I saying thermography is the one and only. By no means am I saying, thermography is the answer. And by no means am I saying that doctors are wrong. What I’m saying is that there is so much more information available to us, and we need to capitalize on it. We need to take advantage of that.
I believe that for all the correct and proper intents and purposes, yes, doctors are tasked with finding a diagnosis and treating it. That’s what we go to the doctors for, what am I being diagnosed with and how do we treat it. But what’s really important for us to understand, and this is a statistic from our own American Medical Association, the American Medical Association has written and stated that 50% of diagnoses here in the United States are wrong. So that means it’s up to us. That means it’s up to us to really gather as much information as we possibly can.
In my particular case, had I seen the results of my thermal scan I would have been able to deduct from the results of the findings of that scan, that there was no neurovascular activity around those calcifications. There was no angiogenesis around those classifications. There was nothing that my body was doing that was fighting the aggressive nature or the aggressive characteristics of those micro-calcifications. In fact, it is very likely that the body that the thermal scan would have confirmed for me that the body had done what it was supposed to do in a state of chronic inflammation which is one of the three precursors to disease, dysfunction and even cancer, the body goes into fight that.
And what might be the result is a residue or calcifications of the body doing what it was supposed to do in fighting that chronic inflammation. That is what was left in my breast, those micro classifications as the end stage of chronic inflammation and again, not necessarily the beginning stage of breast cancer. And the value of thermography, not only at the time of my diagnosis, meaning that second opinion, but it also would have been a tool for me to use from a prognostic perspective. Let’s say I chose or could have chosen to change whatever environment state that my body was in that was creating that inflammation. Whether it be a lifestyle change, a mindset change, a diet change, medication, supplements, over the counter drugs or medications that I was taking, could have been a whole gamut of things. I could have used thermography to ensure that the changes I was making we’re actually making a difference and keeping any kind of disease, dysfunction or even cancer at bay.
There’s the other point that is so important. We, as medical consumers, patients, we are not always told nor do we always understand the risks that are involved in the procedures that are being done or the drugs that are being prescribed to diagnose or treat whatever is ailing us. I’m kind of setting us up here to understand that there is a whole set of risks for every single test procedure, screening and treatment that we go through, and I’m just gonna talk about ionizing radiation. When we go for a medical screening such as an x-ray, a mammogram, a CT scan, a PET scan, we are being exposed to what science calls ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is actually cancer-causing radiation. Ionizing radiation, when we expose the body, is actually changing its free radicals that changes the makeup of our DNA, which can trigger cancer. We’re not told that when our doctor says, “Oh your belly hurts, let’s send you for a pelvic CT scan or a CT scan of the abdomen in the pelvis.” We’re not told then, and you’re also gonna be exposed to cancer-causing radiation that is going to be accumulated in your body for the rest of your life. You can’t flush that ionizing radiation out. We may not come up with anything from that particular scan, it may not give us the answers that we’re looking for. With thermography, Maria, there is absolutely no risk involved whatsoever. There is no exposure to any kind of cancer-causing radiation, there are no compressions, there are no injections, there are no claustrophobic chambers, there’s no risk.
So, not being told what the ramifications could be or are is a whole another segment for another day. But that’s a really, really important piece when we are in a situation where we’re going for, whether it be annual screenings or screenings for diagnosis if we’re not feeling well. these are things that we need to know that we’re not being told and I think it’s really important.
~M: You jam-packed that with so much great information, Kerry. There were so many tips that you shared. In a nutshell, what I get from that is if we are not our own best advocates to learn what our options are, truly, and in this day and age, there are so many more than doctors may even know about. And if we’re not our own best advocates and asking questions, so what I take from what you’ve just shared with us, is you’ve opened, for me, you’ve opened a channel of communication that I’ve not yet been able to have with my own physicians because I didn’t know what questions to ask.
So I love that you are sharing with us what questions to ask. So thank you so much for… And I love what you said in the beginning. Invest in your wellness so you don’t have to pay for your illness. That’s so important and it all ties in.
~K: Can I add one more piece to this?
~M: Sure! Sure, you can.
~K: When I talk about having gone through my journey, I wanna share just one little valuable nugget here. During that two-year period and more so in the beginning, there was a time right after my first surgery, that I woke up in the middle of the night, out of a dead sleep with panic and fear. I was convinced in my mind… You know the power of our minds, right? In my mind, I was convinced that there was cancer somewhere else and they had missed it because I did know that no test is the true test. The only true test for cancer is a biopsy. So I knew that these were just screenings and there was a possibility that they could have missed something.
So I went to my doctor at my next appointment, and I said, “I want another PET scan.” I’ve got it in my head that there’s cancer somewhere else, and it may have been missed. I want another PET scan, and my doctor said, “Absolutely not. I can’t put you through another PET scan. The amount of radiation exposure would put you at danger, number one. Number two, you just had a PET scan less than three months ago. I’m not gonna put you through that again. Number three, your insurance. I wouldn’t be able to get insurance to justify it. And number four, you’d have to pay out of pocket. And I said, “Okay if I can’t have a PET scan and what can I have?”
I wasn’t accepting no as an answer. He said, “Alright, I’ll agree for you to have a full-body MRI if that will give you peace of mind. It’s not the best test for cancer, but if that will give you peace of mind, I will allow you to have a full-body MRI. There are no radiation risks with an MRI, however, it’s not the best test and it’s claustrophobic, it’s uncomfortable, there’s prep, so on and so forth.” So I said, “I’ll do it ’cause I think that will help.” He said, “However, you’re gonna have to pay out of pocket because I’m not gonna be able to get insurance to cover this and because I can’t get it justified.” I was in such a state, I said, “Okay I’ll do it.” He said, “Fine. Go call around and figure out where you wanna go and where you wanna have this done.”
When I was calling around, I was quoted anywhere from $3800-$5200 for a full-body MRI, out-of-pocket, and the variance was based on with contrast, without contrast, open MRI, closed MRI, that’s where all the variances came in and where I wanted to go, and I paid $3800 for a full-body MRI, had I known… had I known then what I know now. Had I known that I could have had a full body with thermal scan for $550, absolutely no risk involved, and it would have given me the other half, meaning it would have given me the vision of what my body was doing physiologically or functionally, rather than structurally. It would have given me the insight that I needed to make better decisions and I’m not saying my decision was bad, it was the best decision I could have made at the time, with the knowledge that I had. Had I had the knowledge I have today, my decisions would have very likely been very different. I could have had that thermal scan for $550 and it would have given me the next layer of information that I needed and for me to have come to the discovery that I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction, no lymph nodes involved, stage zero, that just stops me in my tracks. And so now I’m on a mission, I don’t want anybody to have to go through that if they don’t have to.
~M: That’s a compelling reason for us to do our research. This is a great segue for me to ask you, Kerry, I am certain that there are gonna be people who wanna connect with you and learn more about your story and about thermal imaging as well. So would you please tell us what is the best way for people to get in touch with you?
~K: I am open to, I also wanna say even if you just have questions, I am more than welcoming you to come to the office, learn more about thermography. There is absolutely no charge. You can schedule an appointment. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, you can certainly call me. My telephone number is 623-243-7100. My website is thermalimagingcenters.com. I also communicate a lot on Facebook trying to educate others about the value of thermography, that’s @thermalimagingcenters on Facebook as well, or email me. Email me at Kerry@thermalimagingcenters.com and I am more than willing to answer any questions, have you come to the office and have a consultation, free of charge, prior to any scan that you decide you wanna have, or don’t have, just to learn about thermography. I make myself available ’cause like I said, it’s my mission in life to help others, and this is the venue in which I’m doing it ’cause it would have saved me.
~M: Thank you so much for that, Kerry. I am certain that they’re going to be a lot of viewers who are not here in the Phoenix area where you and I are, so give Kerry a call, reach out to her via email and she will help you find the solution in your area.
~M: She does this all over the country. So, Kerry, thank you for being here with us today. I really appreciate it so much. You’ve given our audience some great information. I’d like to thank all of you for watching and for being a part of our community, this series of conversations with women is inspired by my latest book, Upside Down to Right Side Up: Turning Transition into Triumph. My book, the articles I write, and these conversations are intended to share stories from the heart and life strategies that can help you. I invite you to share them with the other women in your life. So none of us will ever, again, feel like we are alone.
Many of us have gone through similar experiences, and we’re here to support you.
I believe it’s our time to thrive. Will you join me on that ride? ‘Til next time. I’m María Tomás-Keegan.