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Karla & Thermography

13 mins read

Looking back to the first time you met someone that you care about can be sweet or funny or embarrassing or all of the above. Do you ever get sentimental thinking about your relationship with your job? Not to sound too much like a Talking Heads song but that question is real. How did I get here? This story is about a woman’s relationship to her career path, how she got to where she is today, and how making a difference in the ever-evolving and the often suspicious medical world has given her a feeling of purpose and empowerment.  

KARLA & THERMOGRAPHY

“My dream job as a young girl was to be a cosmetologist.  My mother had her hair done every Wednesday for as long as I can remember.  Knowing how much it meant to her, I wanted to be able to do her hair for her.   When I was 13, my mother passed away from cancer at 39 years old.

a black and white head-shot portrait of a woman in a furry shag dress or top with pearls and a soft smile.
Karla’s mother, Mildred Pace at age 19

During my high school years, I was part of the DECA program (which prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in high schools and colleges around the globe). I learned more about the world of hairdressing and decided that standing in the same place for many hours did not sound inviting to me.  Thankfully I was deterred from that dream early on because I went on to develop multiple chemical sensitivities. The fragrant world of cosmetology would have been out of the question.

newspaper clipping of 6 highschool teens and 1 faculty member all in uniform pose for a picture around a podium.
West Valley DECA club (Karla sitting bottom right)

I developed a hunger for learning more about health and prevention.  To this day I recall how confusing and horrible it was not knowing anything about how the human body actually worked.  In high school, I took a part-time job at the Spokane Valley General Hospital working in Personnel.  I learned about different medical positions and became interested in radiology.  I took a position as an x-ray aide in my senior year.  My job was to transfer patients from their room to the x-ray department and back again after their study was done.  I also was the darkroom assistant developing x-rays.  I continued to work there through my college years.  In my second year of community college, I decided to apply to The School of Radiology which was at Holy Family Hospital in Spokane at that time.  I was accepted into the small class of 8 women that began my world of medicine.

The small group of 8 women in Karla’s School of Radiology class, Karla in the middle

I worked as a radiological technologist for about 20 years between Spokane, Tri-Cities, Renton, Bellevue, and Hawaii.  In 1996 our family of four moved back to our hometown of Spokane.  I worked in radiology for several years and became certified in CT (computed tomography). 

3 women piled on 2 chairs in office uniforms smiling for the camera
Karla sitting between 2 of her employees at the Inland Imaging satellite office in north Spokane. Kimberly Wong left and Angela Twedt right

In 2007 I learned about thermography, a technology I had never heard of before, while at my naturopathic doctor’s office.  I started looking into it and felt angry that I had no idea it even existed and it’s been around since the 1970s!   I learned it is a technology that uses infrared cameras to evaluate breast health by detecting differences in temperatures between the two breasts. It is best described as a risk assessment tool.  There is no radiation, compression, or pain.  Thermography is recommended to start at age 20, giving young women a way to monitor their breast health, before mammograms are recommended.  

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In 2009 I finally made the decision to go in for my first thermogram.  I learned my risk in each breast and visually saw what estrogen does to our breast tissue.  I was so thrilled with the technology that I spent the next few weeks learning everything I could about it.  My follow-up appointment for my doctor to go over the results with me was life-changing.  She hired me to do all the thermograms and marketing.  Very few women I spoke to knew about the technology.  My task was to change that.  I began networking using social media platforms and going to networking events to get the word out.  Seven months into this new position I met a woman at a networking event who was the key to changing everything. 

2 women dressed up wearing black cocktail dresses back to back and holding hands posing for magazine cover
Beyond Pink founders, Karla Porter and Charlie Brewer

She approached me when she saw my name tag saying “Karla Porter? I said “yes?” and she said, ” I love you!”  She went on to tell me she had a sister who had just gone through her second round of chemo. She had come across my blog about thermography through a local social media platform called LaunchPad and wanted to learn all about it. She knew that you don’t just wake up sick one day.  A lot happens before a mass can be detected.  She had read my blog on thermography and wanted to learn all about it.  She said if I ever wanted to do a fundraiser or charity event to let her know.  

My father passed away a few weeks later from a stroke.  With an empty space in my heart, I started looking outside myself and decided to call that woman from the event.  I had an idea for a fundraiser to have a designer bra fashion show to help bring awareness to thermography.  All the proceeds were to be used for women who could not afford thermography because most insurances do not cover it.  We held our first event 11 weeks later in October 2010 at the Spokane Club. The live fashion show/ auction was such a hit we are now in our 11th year.  To date, we have provided over $1,000,000.00 in funds to women who could otherwise not afford this potentially lifesaving technology.

woman sits with laptop showing the thermographic image of breasts posing for the magazine cover
Bringing awareness about breast thermography to the Spokane area

Conventional medicine practices reactive care.  You are already sick and they try to help you treat your illness.  Naturopathic, holistic, integrative, and functional medicines are proactive.  They are trying to help turn the disease process around and prevent further illness.  I learned early on, that life is precious and I wanted to do whatever I could to further preserve my health and the health of others.  

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Thermography has been largely discredited by many medical providers in conventional medicine.  The problem with thermography isn’t with the technology but with the scientific field. Since thermography has the ability to see the disease process before a mass has formed, it was originally thought to have a high false-positive rate.  Our medical field doesn’t know what to do with it if there isn’t a mass to biopsy or to be surgically removed.  This was determined in the 1970s because no mass could be found on mammography.  What was not well-publicized was that about 80% of the women who had a high-risk thermogram ended up developing breast cancer within 6 years.  Thermography was never meant to be a replacement for mammography or any other technology but an adjunct or additional tool to help us see what’s going on ideally before a mass has formed.  You are already sick once you see something on a mammogram.  Thermography is looking at the health of the breast by measuring temperature discrepancies between breasts and vascular patterns (arteries and veins).  Thermography is a test of physiology or function.  Mammography is looking at the anatomy or structure of the breast tissue.  Physiology always happens first, giving us the opportunity for an early warning.  The two technologies work together but neither can replace the other.  If you can see the disease process before a mass has formed, you have the opportunity to make lifestyle changes to turn things around. 

TH1 – Lowest risk for breast disease
TH5 – Highest risk for breast disease.

Since practicing Thermography I feel empowered about my own health in general. I’m not living in fear because I have this additional tool to help guide me.  To date, a large portion of the population is still not aware of this risk assessment tool.
In the eight years since I have owned my own thermal imaging business, I have learned how to run a successful business and help thousands of women learn how to monitor and improve their breast health.  To be able to provide this grossly underutilized technology, I am forever grateful to all who have helped to pave the way!” 

Thank you, Karla Porter, for sharing your story! 

If you’re interested in contacting Karla or learning more about the “Beyond Pink” fundraising event you can visit her website at https://insightthermography.com/ and the event page at https://beyondpink.net

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