Compassionate care helps mother through breast cancer

Laurena Kerber was treated for breast cancer at St. Joseph's. It was on Good Friday of last year that Laurena Ketzel-Kerber received the call from her doctor confirming the lump she had discovered a few weeks earlier was cancerous. With her mother’s history of breast cancer, Laurena always knew she was at risk, but she was still shocked, and afraid, by the news.

But Ketzel-Kerber is tough. As a a wife, mother of three middle-schoolers and business owner, she was determined not to let anyone down. Instead, she set her mind on getting the best treatment possible to survive her diagnosis.

Ketzel-Kerber put her trust in the care of Albert Wendt, MD, medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. She underwent advanced genetic counseling, and Dr. Wendt and his team created a personalized treatment plan for her. 

“Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States, and the most common cause of death for women in their 40s,” said Dr. Wendt, a firm advocate of early screenings.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer takes the lives of more than 40,000 U.S. women a year. The Arizona Department of Health Services reports that more than 3,500 women and nearly 50 men are diagnosed annually in Arizona, and approximately 700 die from the disease every year.

The University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s offers a full range of care for the diagnosis and treatment of malignant and high-risk breast diseases. Wendt and his team are working hard to outsmart the disease—through research, clinical trials, cutting-edge technology and personalized treatments for every patient who walks through the door.

“I was treated with the most genuine compassionate care,” said Ketzel-Kerber, who is currently cancer-free after chemotherapy and surgery. “Every member of Dr. Wendt’s team cared for me like I was the single most important person they were treating. I will be forever grateful.”

“Laurena embodies the courage, conviction and strength women muster in this all-too-common circumstance,” said Dr. Wendt.  “She gives a face to the experience so many women must endure, validates our success to this point and compels us in our mission to cure and minimize the impact of breast cancer in our world.  There is still so much to do.”