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

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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.

Mammogram Madness

By: Shannon Shull

Ladies and Gentlemen, I recently had to endure my first ever Mammogram.  And yes, it was brutal!  Let me just go ahead and clarify that I did not enjoy it…not one bit!  The awkwardness, coupled with humiliation, and then topped with excruciating pain is just flat out ridiculous. The pain is a kind of pain that I can only best describe as “stupid pain,” because a woman is in such an absurd position as she is experiencing the incredible discomfort.  Pain in itself is bad enough, but add that element of embarrassment and it becomes just flat out stupid!

I’ve heard stories about the unpleasantness of mammograms and I realize that the experience is different for each woman. The level of pain and discomfort depends on factors ranging from breast size, breast age, modesty levels and the ability, attention and sympathy of the technician carrying out the brutality.  I fortunately had a lovely nurse technician. I say lovely not because she was necessarily gentle with my bare, innocent breasts, but because she smiled and laughed at my constant joking and silly comments. I’m one of those that nervously runs my mouth constantly, in an attempt to distract myself from pain in an uncomfortable situation. So when I asked her how she felt about being able to say that she got to literally squish boobs all day, she certainly laughed. When I told her how perky my boobs used to be before giving birth to two children deflated them, she laughed. When I started asking detailed questions about all the different breast sizes she’s seen in her profession, she giggled uncomfortably and conveniently avoided the question as she lifted one of my boobs onto the torture platform.

Nervously waiting before the mammogram

There were no giggles however when she realized I was up on my tip toes –- my boob was being flattened like a pressed leaf in a large book, I was holding onto part of the torture device for dear life as she told me to relax of all things, I was told to hold my breath until she realized that my long hair was in the way, so on top of the incredibly uncomfortable position I was already in, she had to make me hold my head at a VERY awkward angle so that my hair wouldn’t drape into the image, and as if that wasn’t enough…just as she told me to hold my breath again and got into position to zap a picture of my pancaked boob, she noticed I was on my tip-toes and promptly told me to flatten my feet. This resulted in a ratta-tat-tat back and forth between the two of us…

  • Technician: Flatten your feet, please.

    The Mammogram “Torture” Device

  • Me: uh-uh
  • Technician: Flatten your feet.
  • Me: uh-uh
  • Technician: Please, flatten your feet.
  • Me: uh-uh
  • Technician: You have to flatten your feet.
  • Me: Not happening.

I was quite sure that if I flattened my feet, my boob would surely slice right off and be left pressed there on the platform like a Panini sandwich.  We had to compromise – I would flatten my feet if she would lower the torture device! All I could think is, women of today come in all shapes and sizes and I know every mammogram victim is not 5’5” tall!

We worked through it and I continued to chatter away nervously as she proceeded with the brutality as quickly as she could. When we had to switch the torture to my other breast, that’s when the joking subsided and the painful moaning and whimpering began. It was the sore breast… my reason for being there in the first place. You see, I am not of the age yet in which I would normally have to endure this insane female requirement of health consciousness. I unfortunately though have a very painful lump that once my doctor felt, I was immediately rushed to imaging with orders to have an ultrasound and mammogram. My doctor’s urgency certainly scared me and sent my mind into a worried tailspin. I just kept assuring and reminding myself that my doc is proactive and takes all precautions to find answers – which I greatly appreciate.

So jump back to my punishment in the torture chamber … when my sore breast was laid into that devilish device, I honestly questioned whether or not they were trying to pop the tumor, lump or whatever it was right out of my body! The pain clouded my mind as I stood there like a pitiful puppet placed in an inhuman position. I had visions of tumors shooting out of my boob like bullets blasting out, bouncing off the walls and blowing the torture machine to smithereens. I think the visions of destroying the boob brutality device was the only thing that got me through it.

I walked away from that experience in silent awe at the reality of what a mammogram entails. I was then directly guided into the ultrasound room in which the little knob like thing was repeatedly moved over the sore area of my breast. I thought I was going to get a Charlie horse in my calves, I was tensing up my muscles so much!  I have a high tolerance for pain, but this was pushing it.  Eventually the technician, with a confused look on her face, said she was going to go get the doctor.  Great.  So I’m lying there with goop on my breast, which is literally numb from all the brutality, left to wonder what in the world is wrong with me.  Finally a joyful doctor walks into the room and declares, “You, my dear, are just fine and I don’t want to see you again until you’re 40!”  I was speechless at first, believe it or not!  When I was finally able to form words, all I could say was … “Then what is wrong with me!?!?!?”

In Ultrasound Room Impatiently Waiting on the Diagnosis

It was explained to me that I simply have a cluster of fatty breast tissue that can be a normal occurrence due to a spike in hormone changes due to stress or too much caffeine. Hmmmm…. Well, the stress portion of my life is inevitable and has certainly spiked lately. Not much I can do about that, but hold my head high and attempt to survive as best as I can with the enormous stress in my complicated life.  I don’t have much caffeine daily as it is.  Naturally, I’m drinking a cup of coffee as I write this.  But I promise it will be my only cup today!  The doc had no meds to offer up, the only way to attempt to heal my clustered painful little boob is to cut back on stress and caffeine and hope that it’ll go away!  Go figure.

I can now officially say that I have survived a mammogram and though some women may not agree, I do indeed consider it total boobie brutality!

Do any of you have any Mammogram stories to share? Please…do tell! Let’s bond over boob talk shall we? 😉