Katherine Knoploh

(SUN PHOTO BY KRISTEN MILLER)

Katherine Knoploh holds the picture with her son and daughter that was taken after her breast cancer diagnosis. She brought the photo with her to each of her chemotherapy treatments.

Katherine Knoploh of Hopkins was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago and understands the emotional impact such a diagnosis can have on a person.

Knoploh uses her experience to help others along their cancer journey as a holistic health coach.

“There’s a lot of ‘I wish I would’ves,” Knoploh said, looking back on her diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 46.

“I wish I would’ve asked more questions,” Knoploh said was one of those wishes.

She was told her mammogram results were normal and that she just had dense breasts. Eight months later, her annual breast exam would prove otherwise, when the doctor found a large slow-growing tumor.

She was told dense breasts often make it harder to detect unhealthy tissue, and wonders if other tests, such as a 3D mammogram or an ultrasound, would’ve caught the cancer sooner.

Now, she understands the importance of asking those questions and being an advocate for one’s health, she said.

In the months after her diagnosis, Knoploh underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.

There were a number of times when she sat at her kitchen table and cried after her oncologist visits.

“It was overwhelming,” she said, thinking about the treatment process.

As a single mother of twin teenagers, she also worried about her children as she faced a life-threatening disease.

“It’s a constant roller coaster of emotions ... harder than chemotherapy,” she said.

After she was diagnosed and before starting chemotherapy, she had a professional portrait taken with her son, Cole, and daughter, Sarah. She took the photo with her to every chemotherapy treatment.

“They just kept me going,” she said, noting it was also hard on her children seeing their mother endure the side effects of treatment.

Through all of this, Knoploh began experiencing lymphedema and neuropathy, conditions that would restrict her lifting and walking, both abilities she needed to do her job as a nutrition substitute in the cafeterias across the Hopkins School District.

At the same time, she began experiencing constant fear of re-occurrence, which is common for cancer survivors.

Something that clicked with her was what a woman in her online support group said: “I don’t want to look back decades from now and realize that I had to live that entire time in fear.”

At that moment, she realized “I needed to start living.”

She knew people who had studied with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, which offers online education for becoming a holistic health coach.

Not only would this education help her through her recovery, Knoploh also was inspired to help others.

Finding a support network is important for anyone going through a cancer diagnosis, Knoploh said, and she is grateful to be that person for a young woman she met through an online support group who was battling stage 4 cancer.

“I think she just showed me that I can make a difference to other people,” Knoploh said.

Through her education with the institute, Knoploh has learned to take a holistic approach to health and how important food is for healing – things she wishes she would’ve known before and after being diagnosed.

For example, Knoploh wishes she would’ve known how effective acupuncture can be to relieve pain in the joints caused by chemotherapy, how ginger can alleviate nausea and how breathing and meditation can help manage stress.

“I appreciate western medicine. I still believe that all of these complementary and alternative methods have a place,” she said.

Her particular type of cancer was also hormone positive, meaning it had receptors that allowed it to grow in response to hormones, whether it’s estrogen or progesterone, or in her case, both of the hormones.

Before being diagnosed, Knoploh was prescribed hormone replacement therapy for depression, a symptom of peri-menopause.

According to the FDA, hormone medicines may increase the chance of breast cancer, along with blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.

Although she had always gravitated towards more natural healing methods versus prescription drugs, “At the time I was not educated about the benefits of plant-based eating,” she said, and how “foods can have positive and negative effects on the body.”

“A diet rich in [conventional] animal products can affect hormone levels due to the hormones contained in the animal products,” she said, adding some plant-based foods also act as a natural anti-depressant.

As a holistic health coach, Knoploh wants to help others with the experience and knowledge she’s gained through her journey. She is also open to public speaking opportunities.

“The education piece is huge for me – to educate other people on how they can help their loved ones, or how they can help themselves,” she said.

To learn more about Knoploh, visit her online at inspiredvitality.life or on Facebook at Inspired Vitality of Minnesota.

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Kristen Miller is the community editor for the Sun Sailor, covering the communities of Plymouth, Hopkins and Minnetonka. Email story ideas to kristen.miller@apgecm.com

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