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Grateful Patient Spotlight: Katy Jo McDaniel

"By donating to the Liz Hurley Breast Cancer Fund you are literally saving lives. Thank you, thank you, thank you. For caring, for giving, for showing so many women that our lives matter!"
- Katy Jo McDaniel, 33-year-old breast cancer survivor

Katy Jo McDaniel was just 32 years old when she noticed a lump in her breast while taking a shower. Because she has a family history of cancer, Katy Jo immediately called her doctor to make an appointment. She was sent to have her mammogram and ultrasound at a different facility, where she was told it was nothing. Thankfully, Katy Jo trusted her instincts and was her own biggest advocate. She scheduled an appointment with the Breast Center at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children.

The Breast Center team used high-tech donor-funded equipment to assess Katy Jo, including an ultrasound machine for evaluation and diagnosis, plus a 3D mammography machine for accurate tumor marker placement. During the Christmas holiday of 2021, Katy Jo awaited the results of her testing. On January 3, 2022, she got the call that she had invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 2. This is a fast-moving cancer, and our expert Breast Center team had her in for an MRI the next day and to meet with Colisa, the breast health navigator.

“The Breast Center has been a kind and knowledgeable voice in my breast cancer journey since the first day I walked through the door,” Katy Jo said. “I was afraid and they cared. I was overwhelmed and they listened. I was confused and they gave me answers. Just like donors matter in keeping this amazing place going, the staff there are the hands and feet putting these funds to use, loving and serving patients through some very difficult days.”

Since her diagnosis just seven months ago, Katy Jo has undergone 16 rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. In speaking to her, you would never know that she is in the middle of this fight. She is a ray of sunshine that shines brightly for her six-year-old and one-year-old daughters. And also for fellow breast cancer patients. Many “young” patients now receive Katy Jo’s number when they are diagnosed so she can be a resource and inspiration.

“No matter the situation, knowing that someone sees you, understands, cares, and is cheering you on can be life changing,” Katy Jo shared. “A cancer diagnoses on the other hand is terrifying, lonely, and isolating. While I would have never wanted cancer, I am incredibly grateful to now get to walk with other women on the same road, reminding them that they aren’t alone, are loved, and will be taken care of.”

It isn’t just Katy Jo who has been inspired to help others. Her oldest daughter, Ella Reese, hosted a fundraiser to help others “like mommy”. Ella Reese and her best friend hosted a lemonade stand to raise money for breast cancer patient assistance. They blew everyone away when they raised $4,500!

“Cancer is not only a part of my story now, but my family’s as well,” Katy Jo said. “Nothing prepares you for telling your precious, six year old that ‘mommy has cancer.’ It was a moment I wish we never had to have … Her heart to love others in the same situation as me is something I will forever be grateful for. To be able to raise money to help lift the financial burden from families already struggling is a priority and gift to my heart!”

As for all the donors who gave Katy Jo the gift of state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, she feels she can never thank you enough.

“I’d like to look each donor in the eyes (mine would likely be full of tears!) and say YOUR GIFTS MATTER,” Katy Jo said. “This matters. These women matter. Your donations are not in vain, and they are not small. By donating to the Liz Hurley Breast Cancer Fund you are literally saving lives. Thank you, thank you, thank you. For caring, for giving, for showing so many women that our lives matter!”