CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Queen City News is a proud sponsor of the 2023 Susan G. Komen More than Pink walk happening on Saturday, in SouthPark’s Symphony Park.
We tend to think of cancer as something people get later in life, but Katie Strobel, who grew up in the Charlotte area, will be the first to tell you that’s not always the case.
Strobel was diagnosed with the disease well before her 30th birthday and is now advocating for other women to be vigilant about their health.
Strobel has a smile that could power the Queen City only paling in comparison to her sense of humor.
“Pink is my favorite color, so if I was gonna get any cancer, this is it,” she laughed.
The happy color represents the dark disease she’s been fighting since the young age of 28.
“Oh my gosh, I have goosebumps just every time I talk about it,” Strobel said “I’m a new mother of three, and my husband is in his last year of residency to become a doctor.”
It was while breastfeeding her youngest in March 2022 when Strobel felt something was “off.”
“It’s called mastitis, I had it all the time with my two girls, so when I felt the lump, I was like, ‘Oh no, that’s what’s happening. I have mastitis again,’” she recalled.
Eight months, an ultrasound, and a biopsy later, Strobel learned it wasn’t mastitis.
“I was diagnosed with stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is very rare, it’s like 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers are inflammatory breast cancer, and it mimics mastitis,” she explained.
Strobel started chemotherapy right away and got a double mastectomy, something she knew was a big decision, but one she made easily.
She said, “When I woke up from my mastectomy, I took the biggest breath because I was like, for the first time, there’s not a giant tumor literally living on my chest trying to kill me.”
Strobel would later learn, that the cancer had spread to her brain.
“It was bad for two weeks. I am a jokester, I love making jokes, I’m very sarcastic, and the jokes stopped,” she remembers, “And I think that’s what freaked out my family because I was no longer joking about things anymore.”
Fortunately, doctors were able to, in Strobel’s words, “zap out” three brain tumors and she continues to have clear scans.
“I was overjoyed, but at the same time, you still have this feeling like, ‘Should I celebrate? Because if I celebrate, does the cancer know and want to take me down?” she said.
It’s a feeling that never quite goes away.
Strobel said, “I love true crime, but when the doctor says the call is coming from inside the house, it’s hard to keep functioning, you know what I mean? Like, my body is trying to get me there’s no outside person that I can pinpoint or something that’s happening that I can, you know, put up a wall around my house and they can’t get to me anymore it’s happening right here.”
Aside from shorter-than-she’d-prefer hair and a flatter chest, most people wouldn’t guess Strobel is still fighting the disease. She said she’s slowly starting to get her energy back and into a more normal routine.
“I used to make cakes out of my kitchen for certain events, for people in my neighborhood, for friends, and I’m finally getting back to that,” she said, “It sounds so silly that I’m just excited to be able to pick my kids up from the bus stop, but that’s something that was taken away from me when I was sick.”
Now that she’s feeling stronger every day, Strobel’s excited for opportunities like the Susan G. Komen More than Pink walk in SouthPark, to not only push young women to advocate for themselves but to celebrate how far she’s come.
She said, “You know when something is off and just make sure that you scream and yell until somebody listens to you.”
Strobel went on to say, “I feel the most confident I’ve felt my entire life. Because I am raw at this point. I have been through so much. I’ve lost my hair. I’ve lost my breasts. But I am still, right here.”
Strobel had her last scan on Sept. 11 and she said her lungs are clear and her nodes are shrinking.
The Susan G. Komen More than Pink walk gets underway at Symphony Park with the grounds opening at 7 a.m. followed by opening ceremonies at 8:30 a.m. and the walk at 9.