Texas Health Fort Worth nurse shares personal patient journey

Kate Watts believes her cancer battle is strengthening her connection with patients            

Kate Watts sits at her desk, updating notes from her clinical rounds with cancer patients. To the right of her computer is a pink coffee mug with the words, “chemo brain,” written in bold letters, right next to a “Live for today” inscribed box.

Watts, a clinical nurse leader at Texas Health Fort Worth, has seen her work and personal lives collide as she was recently diagnosed with Stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer (IBC).

“When I get a major illness, I do it with gusto,” Watts said.

IBC is considered the most aggressive form of breast cancer, although it accounts for just one to five percent of all invasive breast cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. It is unlike some of the most common forms of breast cancers, which usually start out as lumps or tumors. IBC usually presents with symptoms on the skin of the breast, which may include redness, swelling, and an orange-peal appearance called “peau d’orange.” At 43. Watts is younger than most IBC patients. In the U.S. the average age for IBC diagnosis is 52, compared to 57 for more common forms of breast cancer.

“Unfortunately, IBC is difficult to diagnose. The only symptom I noticed immediately was redness on my skin,” Watts said. “I thought I had a skin infection, but when I looked closer, I did notice a small amount of the peau d’orange.”

Watts mentioned her symptoms to a fellow nurse. Her co-worker shared an IBC patient story with her that recently aired on WFAA-TV. She also advised Watts to get her symptoms checked out.  Watts believes her patient journey may have been different, if it hadn’t been for a concerned co-worker.

Watts made an appointment with her primary care physician.  Within a matter of days, she received a mammogram and underwent a biopsy at Texas Health Fort Worth.

Physicians on the Texas Health Fort Worth medical staff diagnosed and/or treated more than 2,800 new cancer cases in 2015, according to recent statistics. Along with offering various forms of cancer treatment, the hospital provides prevention and early detection services, as well as education and support services for cancer patients and their families. And Texas Health Fort Worth’s Klabzuba Cancer Center is ranked as one of the top ten programs in the state, in terms of size, according to the Texas Cancer Registry.

Despite her IBC diagnosis, Watts remains optimistic, thanks to her supportive co-workers, friends and her caring family members.

“If I can keep working through this [chemotherapy], that’s a huge blessing,” Watts said. “I share my story with my patients. I want them to know I can personally relate to their struggles, and that they’re not alone.”

Every other Wednesday, Watts undergoes a major transformation; she replaces her white lab coat with a comfortable T-shirt during her chemotherapy treatments.

“On my chemo days, I do a lot of resting. But I enjoy going to my eight-year-old daughter’s basketball practices during the week, along with her games on the weekends.”

Raising a daughter and caring for cancer patients while recently becoming one, can be difficult at times, but Watts said she wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“I am someone living with cancer, but I will not let cancer control my life.”

To learn more about Texas Health’s comprehensive cancer programs, which include diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, education, support and prevention, visit Texas Health Cancer services.

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