Oncology Psychotherapist

Snow Ledbetter is a wife, mother of two and, now, a breast cancer survivor. "Two years ago, I was breastfeeding our 10-month-old daughter when I noticed a lump," Ledbetter says. Hoping it was a blocked milk duct, she made an appointment with her gynecologist. He arranged for a mammogram to make sure it wasn't anything else.

"I knew something was wrong when the nurses were silent during my exam - they're usually very chatty," Ledbetter says. A few days later, a biopsy confirmed she had breast cancer, and it already had spread to her lymph nodes. That's when her journey of treatment, reconstruction - and friendships - began.

Immediately after her diagnosis, Jeanne Harkness, a nurse specialist at Park Nicollet Jane Brattain Breast Center, linked Ledbetter with surgeons and other specialists. "Throughout my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, Jeanne was always there to schedule appointments, tell me my test results and answer my questions," Ledbetter says. "She made the whole process go very smoothly."

Ledbetter underwent a bilateral mastectomy and Amy Spomer, MD, oncologist at Jane Brattain Breast Center, mapped out an 18-month treatment plan of chemotherapy and radiation. Since then, Ledbetter also had a full hysterectomy. "If you have breast cancer, you're a good candidate for ovarian cancer," she explains.

At times, this ordeal would take its toll. "I felt a lot of sadness, a lot of loss. Plus, I was coping with major hormonal changes. With the hysterectomy, I was thrown into menopause overnight - I felt a little nuts," she says.

Debi Lillegard, an oncology psychotherapist at Park Nicollet Cancer Center, stepped in to help. "Debi was a tremendous support. She reminded me that during treatments, I was like a soldier who pushed my emotions away. But after treatments, my brain finally had time to deal with the emotions," Ledbetter explains. "Her understanding of this process was very reassuring. I always left her office feeling much better."

Ledbetter also found support from friends in her new neighborhood. "I feel blessed to be here with such close friends, and I couldn't even think of living anywhere else." But it was support in her own home that gave her the most optimistic outlook.

"One of my favorite moments was when I was putting on my fake eyebrows (because I didn't have any). My 6-year-old said, 'Mom, I know you have cancer, but I have soccer and it's getting late,'" Ledbetter recalls. "Some people ask me how I can do this with kids. But I wonder how I could do it without them. They keep me moving."

Just last month, Ledbetter underwent reconstructive breast surgery. "I can see a positive end to this journey," she says. "I feel privileged to have had such good care and medical treatment from the entire Park Nicollet team. I feel better than ever. Plus, spring is arriving in Minnesota."