Survivormode: Part I

By: Katie Austin 

You would think that life after cancer would be easy. Treatments are in the distant past, visits with the medical staff are less frequent, my hair is getting longer, and food tastes amazing. All I dreamed about during my cancer fight was to get back to normal.

But then, is life ever truly “normal?” Was it “normal” before I started this journey?

Breast Friends – Katie and Brandy

Breast Friends – Katie and Brandy

My mind wanders, thinking about all of the things I did before cancer and what I am doing after cancer. Then I question how much of what I was doing before my cancer journey is still active in my life and what “new” things I have taken on.

I take out a sheet of paper, make two columns (“Before” and “After”), and begin writing down all of my thoughts. If there is something that I did before and am doing now, I list it in both columns. I continue this process until I can no longer think of anything else to write down. After I am finished, I sit back and look at my list, and it becomes clear.

Do you think my list is longer on the “Before” or “After” side of the page?

You might be surprised to read that the “After” column is longer. How can that be? I don’t have the energy to do all the things I used to do in a day. But there on paper, it is clear that I have more on my plate now than I did before my cancer diagnosis.

How can that be? I thought I had everything in my life balanced.

To dive deeper into my list, I take the “After” list and begin checking off each item that I feel is something that clearly defines who I am or what I want to accomplish in life. Then, it hits me and I begin to cry.

I am keeping myself busy so that I don’t have to think, feel or relive anything to do with cancer. If I keep myself busy enough, then I don’t have to worry. I am hiding from the fact that I lost close friends last year to cancer, that I have several friends who are fighting now, and that I am always looking over my shoulder to see if cancer will raise its ugly head again.

And then, I had an Aha! moment: I can’t outrun what will always be with me. I will always have cancer but it will not always have me.

I realized that I was clearly in what I would call, “survivormode.” I am doing everything and anything because I am scared to not be a part of life, because cancer took such a big part of my life. It’s one thing for me to protect myself but I can’t actively be a part of life if all I am ever doing is being busy.

Like a movie ending that leaves you hanging, this where I am going to leave you (for now). 🙂 I am going to begin taking steps to get to the healthier, happier me and will be sure to write about my progress in future blog posts. That way, I will be able to share what I learned along the way.

Until then, wishing each of you a blessed day and looking forward to seeing you back at the Every Woman Blog!

Feel the Tatas Year Round

By: Chaunte McClure

Breast Cancer Awareness Month has ended, but unfortunately, breast cancer has not. Lumps are still forming in women’s and men’s breasts, patients are still undergoing chemo, families are hurting because their loved ones have been diagnosed, survivors are in remission and holding on to hope, and researchers are still trying to find a cure.

I hesitated to write this blog because I wanted to fit it in last month, but I didn’t want to interrupt the Baby Talk series. I decided to move forward with addressing the topic because I want you to remember to feel your boobies even after Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over.

In October, breast cancer awareness is heightened. But then it fizzles out until it’s promoted again the next year. Ladies, it is our responsibility to do monthly self-breast exams. Don’t wait until your annual doctor’s visit for your gynecologist to examine your breasts. Too often, cancer is detected late because women and men didn’t take time to feel their tatas. Perhaps we don’t think about it or maybe we think it can’t happen to us, but it can.

KeyahThink you’re too young? Keyah Gibson’s college career was interrupted in February because she was experiencing back pain, which was originally diagnosed as muscle spasms. Later in the spring semester, the pain was unbearable and her mom decided to take her to another doctor for a second opinion. There they learned that Keyah’s spine was deteriorating. The doctor told her either she was malnourished or had cancer. To her dismay, the test results showed she had breast cancer, which spread to her bones. Keyah withdrew from college to undergo six months of chemotherapy and last month, she rang the bell in celebration of her final round of chemo treatments. Keyah is doing well and has started a foundation, Fighting Pretty, to educate and bring awareness to other young ladies.

Not everyone survives this aggressive disease. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, more than 40,000 women died of breast cancer in 2011. My family was touched by this disease in 2006 when my aunt was diagnosed at stage four. She lived about six months after the diagnosis. Because of her, I pound the pavement at an annual walk in her memory and in honor and support of survivors and fighters like Keyah.

I’m in my late thirties and I’ve already had two mammograms. In my twenties, I discovered a lump in my breast and scheduled a doctor’s appointment as soon as I could. Fortunately, the lump is benign, but I have to continue monitoring it for changes.

Please don’t let the fact that you don’t have a family history of breast cancer stop you from getting a mammogram or doing self-breast exams. My family didn’t have a history (at least that we were aware of).

In case you still need to be convinced, remember, early detection saves lives. You’re worth it!

Breast Cancer With Help From Our Friends

Patti Handel is a four-time cancer survivor.

“’Cancer’ is the scariest word in the English language,” she said. “But it’s only part of us. It doesn’t define us.

The 61-year-old from Irmo shares words of wisdom at monthly meetings of Woman to Woman, Lexington Medical Center’s support group for breast cancer survivors.

Handel started attending Woman to Woman meetings after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2007, just one month after she and her husband moved to Irmo from Long Island, New York.

Patti Handel and Brenda Osteen at the West Columbia Riverwalk

Patti Handel and Brenda Osteen at the West Columbia Riverwalk

“I didn’t have a South Carolina driver’s license yet and I needed an oncologist, surgeon and other doctors. It was overwhelming.”

So, she found comfort – and new friends in a new town – at the support group, which is designed to offer companionship to women who are recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

At Woman to Woman, cancer survivors share their experiences, learn about the latest treatment options and swap tips including how pickle juice seems to help cure chemotherapy-induced nausea.

That’s where Patti met Brenda Osteen in 2010.

Brenda, age 67, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 after a mammogram. The Lexington resident endured a mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstruction.

At the meetings, Patti and Brenda hit it off.

“Patti’s been where I’ve been,” Brenda said. “You can’t explain cancer to someone who hasn’t gone through it. It’s like trying to explain a migraine to someone who never had a headache.”

When you see Patti and Brenda together, you can tell they’re close. Both impeccably dressed, they laugh like college friends and share jokes and stories that make you laugh from your belly.

From trading bestsellers they’ve read to talking about their grandchildren while sipping a cocktail at a weekly dinner, they understand each other well.

“We need friends to hold hands with, laugh with and cry with,” Patti said.

Patti especially needed Brenda’s support after a cancer recurrence in her leg in 2010, and another in her abdomen and pelvis one year ago.

Brenda and Patti

Brenda and Patti

“When it came back, I was mad as a hornet,” Patti said.

Patti has had chemotherapy three times and lost her hair twice. She’s monitored every 8 weeks, with scans every three months.

Brenda has inspired Patti to stay positive.

“We get up, put on our makeup, lipstick and earrings – and head out. Life is too precious to waste,” Brenda said.

Kelly Jeffcoat, breast cancer nurse navigator at Lexington Medical Center, runs the Woman to Woman support group at the hospital. As a breast cancer survivor herself, she has a first-hand understanding of the group’s experience.

“This crazy, horrible thing called breast cancer ends up giving you these beautiful relationships,” she said.

Having a cheering section during cancer is important. Studies have shown that women with friends who support them through their cancer journey may experience better outcomes.

Patti and Brenda count Kelly as a big part of the cheering section.

“Kelly is instrumental in the treatment, care and recovery of women going through breast cancer,” Patti said. “Kelly can really say, ‘I know how you feel. I understand.’”

Patti and Brenda will attend Women’s Night Out on October 14, Lexington Medical Center’s annual dinner that recognizes October as breast cancer awareness month and honors cancer survivors and their families. More than 900 people attend each year.

The event includes a silent auction, physician exhibits, fashion show featuring models who are breast cancer survivors, dinner and a talk with keynote speaker Kate Larsen. A breast cancer survivor, Larsen will talk about the importance of friendship during cancer treatment.

For more information about Women’s Night Out or to purchase tickets, visit LexMed.com or call Lexington Medical Center Community Outreach at (803) 936-8850.

The Woman to Woman support group at Lexington Medical Center meets on the 4th Thursday of each month at 5:00 p.m. inside the Women’s Imaging lobby at 2728 Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia. That’s Lexington Medical Park 1 on the hospital campus. The support group is free and open to any woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, regardless of where she has received her treatment.

For more information about Lexington Medical Center’s cancer services, visit LexMed.com.

Local woman’s cancer battle uncovers family link

A Midlands woman’s fight against breast cancer led to a discovery that may save the lives of her sisters and daughters.

Click for Video: wistv.com – Columbia, South Carolina

Kelly, Kathryn and Ashley
Kelly, Kathryn and Ashley

Kathryn Robinson’s cancer battle started more than two years ago.  “I was preparing to go to work, and while I was in the shower I just accidentally felt a lump in my breast,” said Robinson.

It had been less than two months since Robinson’s yearly mammogram, but she knew something wasn’t right. “I called the doctor and went in that afternoon,” said Robinson. “He sent me in for an ultrasound that next Monday.”

Just a few days after the ultrasound Robinson was diagnosed with breast cancer and life immediately changed for her and her family.

“When my mom was diagnosed and she talked about getting genetic testing done, that’s the first time I had ever heard of the gene,” said Robinson’s 24 year-old daughter, Ashley Lyons.

Robinson’s family quickly learned about the BRCA gene malformation. It’s hereditary and when present greatly increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. In the midst of chemo, Kathryn tested positive for the gene.

“I had eight rounds of chemotherapy, and I was scheduled to do radiation after that, but because I was positive with the BRCA2 gene, they did a bilateral mastectomy,” said Robinson.

Doctors at Lexington Medical Center recommended the mastectomy and a hysterectomy in hopes of eliminating Robinson’s future cancer risks. They also advised her family to get tested for the gene.

“I had one sister that wasn’t interested in getting tested and a younger sister that I can usually persuade to do just about anything… she went and got tested,” said Robinson.

As it turned out, Robinson’s sister Kelly Moore also tested positive for the gene malformation. “I feel like I’m the lucky one,” said Moore. “Kathryn helped to educate me, and I had all of her valuable information for what she had gone through.

Moore chose to have her ovaries removed as a preventive measure, and is now getting more frequent breast exams. For Robinson’s daughter Ashley, the decision was more difficult.

“At first, I did not want to know,” said Ashley. “I did not want to be tested.” But Ashley says her older sister talked her into being tested for the gene. While her older sister does not have the BRCA malformation, Ashley does.

“At first I was like how do you test positive and do nothing about it…so that was kind of hard in the beginning,” said Ashley.

But medical oncologist Dr. Steve Madden at Lexington Medical center says at Ashley’s young age it’s okay not to undergo preventive surgery as long as she’s pro-active. “As long as you’re aware, you’re going to be on top of anything and catch it much earlier if it develops at all,” added Dr. Madden.

Kathryn has been a survivor now for two years. Her family calls her a lifesaver. “She was very positive, and she inspired all of us to take a fighting approach to it,” said Moore.

Dr. Madden says doctors usually advise anyone diagnosed with breast cancer who is under the age of 50 to be tested for the gene. They also advise immediate family members of breast cancer patients to be tested, as well.

Click for the full video: WIS TV VIDEO

LMC Receives Susan G. Komen Foundation Grant for Mammogram Screening

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 4.04.30 PM

 

Lexington Medical Center has received a grant from the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation’s SC Mountains to Midlands affiliate to provide 230 breast cancer screenings for uninsured and underinsured women in the Midlands.

Lexington Medical Center will begin offering the screenings to women who meet specific financial requirements. The grant money can also be used to assist with transportation to Women’s Imaging Centers in Lexington Medical Center’s network of care.

“We have always been able to help women who need diagnostic mammograms, but screening mammograms were more difficult to provide,” said Kelly Jeffcoat, Lexington Medical Center Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator. “The Komen grant enables us to offer screening mammograms which are often successful in detecting breast cancer in its earliest stages.”
The goal is early detection and treatment. Clinicians know that early detection is key to successful treatment of breast cancer.

“The biggest problem with patients who are uninsured is that they rarely have access to routine screening mammography.” said Chris Gibson, Lexington Medical Center oncology social worker.  “With these screenings, we have the potential to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages when cure rates are much higher.”
Lexington Medical Center diagnoses approximately 250 breast cancer patients each year.  The hospital’s breast program is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) and the American College of Radiology (ACR).  Lexington Medical Center has four Women’s Imaging centers and a mobile mammography van, all offering digital mammography.  During treatment, breast cancer patients receive the assistance of a nurse navigator who provides education and emotional support. Lexington Medical Center’s cancer program is also accredited with commendation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.

This is the second time that this chapter of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has awarded Lexington Medical Center a grant for breast cancer screenings.  The first one was in 2011 and provided approximately 250 screenings to women in the Midlands. During those screenings, two breast cancers were detected. This year, the hospital expanded the number of counties included in the grant, allowing a broader group of women in the Midlands to benefit from screening mammograms.

For more information about the grant screenings, including eligibility requirements, call 803- 791-2521.

About Lexington Medical Center

Lexington Medical Center, in West Columbia, S.C., anchors a county-wide health care network that includes six community medical centers throughout Lexington County and employs a staff of 5,900 health care professionals.  The network also includes the largest extended care facility in the Carolinas, an occupational health center and more than 60 physician practices.  At its heart is the 414-bed state-of-the-art Lexington Medical Center, with a reputation for the highest quality care.  Lexington Medical Center won “Best Hospital” by readers of The State for ten years in a row, “Best Hospital” by readers of the Free Times, “Best Place to Have a Baby” by readers of Palmetto Parent, the “Consumer Choice Award” from the National Research Corporation and the prestigious “Summit Award” from Press Ganey.  Visit http://www.lexmed.com.

About the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest breast cancer organization.  It was started by Nancy G. Brinker, who promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever.  Komen’s SC Mountains to Midlands affiliate is one of 125 affiliates around the nation dedicated to ending breast cancer in our communities.  Komen affiliates fund innovative programs that help women and men overcome the barriers to breast cancer screening and treatment.  For more information, visit http://www.komenscmm.org.

T.G.F.A.D.

By: Katie Austin

By the middle of every week (sometimes by the end of Monday), I find myself looking forward to Friday, knowing that the weekend is almost here.  Then, come Sunday evening, the Monday blues settle in as I prepare myself for another work week.  I wonder where the time has gone and notice the weeks are moving faster as I get older.  Even as I write this, I can’t believe we are almost to May! I begin to wonder how I can capture the Friday-feel-good feeling every day during the week. Wouldn’t it be great if every day were Friday?!  Of course. But how can I bottle up this feeling so that I can spritz it on at the start of each day?

Then, it hits me! The light bulb over my head is aglow and I realize that I can feel like it’s Friday every day!  How, you ask?  All we need to do is change the way we look at those “other” days during the week. Yes, even Monday 🙂  Now, I look at every day as Thank God For Another Day.  Instead of being thankful for just Friday and being happy that I made it to the end of the work week, I try to remind myself that I am thankful each day that I wake up. I am thankful to have a job, a wonderful group of family and friends, and the opportunity to make each day one to remember.

T.G.F.A.D.

I know some of you are thinking, “Katie, take off those rose-colored glasses!”   But as I bring those rose-colored glasses to the end of my nose, I peek over the top of them to ask one simple question: if you knew today would be your last, would you feel the same way??  No matter what is going on in your life, you can find something positive when you look at life differently.  Believe that no matter what happens today, if you are given another day, things can change. We should look forward to tomorrow!  I am thankful even for the bad days, as I realize I am a strong person and that life events prepare us for future challenges.  I wouldn’t have made it through my breast cancer battle without first getting stronger from my past struggles.  You can and you will get through life hurdles, small and tall, when you believe that you can and when you are thankful for every day.

Life has a way of speeding up as we get older.  I think we should pause often, be thankful, and appreciate each day for what it’s worth.  Seize the day and make it one to remember!

Katie

Pink Glove Dance Voting Extended to Friday, Nov. 2!

Medline has extended voting for the Pink Glove Dance Competition until Friday, November 2!

We still have a long way to go and voting for our video has slowed down. Please keep spreading the word to family and friends across the country and encouraging them to vote for us.

You can also bring your friends and family to Lexington Medical Center Gamecock Village and the Lexington Oktoberfest to vote for our video. Pink Glove volunteers will be at Lexington Medical Center Gamecock Village, located next to Williams-Brice Stadium, from 8:00 – 11:30 a.m. and Lexington Oktoberfest in downtown Lexington from 12:00 noon – 3:30 p.m. Both events are this Saturday!

And if you haven’t already, please go to www.pinkglovedance.com, scroll down the “L-M” page for LMC and click “VOTE” on our video. If you need access to a computer or a Facebook page, please come by Marketing at 107 West Hospital Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. We’ll be happy to help you.

It’s because of the incredible support of our LMC family that we’ve come this far. The world is watching, so let’s show them what we’ve got and bring back-to-back National Pink Glove Dance Championships to Lexington Medical Center!