ROCHESTER, Minn. - Sen. Amy Klobuchar is opening up about her cancer diagnosis and treatment in the Med City earlier this year.
"I mostly just want to thank people in the Rochester area that work," Klobuchar told KIMT. "I tried to thank whoever I could when I was at Mayo, but it just literally saved my life."
Senator Klobuchar's experience with cancer in many ways started at Mayo Clinic, where doctors found evidence of cancer during a routine mammogram last February. She later underwent surgery and radiation treatment at Mayo for Stage 1A breast cancer.
"I just remember being scared when I got that call, no one wants to get that call. I didn't know, the thought of telling my husband and my daughter, all of that went through my mind. But every time I walked into Mayo, I knew I had the best care, and they were so wonderful. It made all the difference," the senator said.
While grappling with her diagnosis and treatment, Senator Klobuchar continued working on major pandemic legislation, economic initiatives and led the Senate's investigation into the storming of the Capitol Building on January 6th. Her treatment also coincided with the death of her father in May, which Klobuchar calls the hardest part of the past several months.
"It was a long goodbye, all through the first five months of the year," Klobuchar shared. "I wanted to have the focus be on him and not on me. I wanted the focus of his friends and our family to be remembering his life. And I felt like it was not even a question, the decision, as long as I could keep doing my job and I was doing it."
Klobuchar hopes sharing her story will encourage everyone to show up for routine screenings and mammograms, as health experts report many Americans have delayed or declined care since the start of the pandemic.
"Thousands of women have undetected breast cancer because they haven't gone in for a mammogram. One out of three Americans, one study showed, have put off doing routine exams, not just on cancer, on anything. So I just hope my experience will help other people."
Reflecting on lessons learned while battling cancer, Senator Klobuchar tells KIMT it was incredible seeing so much support from loved ones and total strangers alike.
"You really start to appreciate the people you love, it gives you some perspective. And then people I didn't know as well - the nurses at Mayo giving me the red, white, and blue mask on Memorial Day weekend when I finished radiation, the incredible strangers that didn't even know I had cancer and didn't know who I was. I'm on a plane with my mask on, and at the time, I couldn't lift up my luggage for months because of having had the surgery. I wasn't supposed to lift stuff, but I keep flying back and forth between Washington and Minnesota, and some guy would always stand up because I'd be looking at my suitcase, and he goes 'let me do that. Let me take it down.' And it just lifted my spirits because people were helping me and they didn't even know it."