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Survivor Diagnosed at 40, Husband Becomes Caregiver for Second Time

Posted By on June 15th, 2016 at 9:03 am | 0 comments.

Nicole-Lee-survivor-spotlightThis month’s survivor spotlight, Nicole Lee, had a 6-month-old little boy when she went for her first mammogram. At age 40, she heard the words “you have breast cancer” and her first reaction was concern for her husband.

“Ryan cannot go through this again.”

Ryan, Nicole’s husband, lost his first wife to breast cancer. She was diagnosed when their twin sons were the exact same age as Nicole’s son Ashton – 6 months old.

Nicole Lee, Montgomery County

My life seemed perfect.  I was working as an operating room nurse at a big trauma hospital and living life to its fullest. I was single and happy with wonderful friends and family. I was having lots of fun going out, attending destination weddings, vacations, social functions; whatever was going on, I was there.  I did feel like there was just one thing missing.  I wanted to fall in love and share my life with someone. But my expectations were so high!  If someone was worthy of my heart they’d have to fulfill my long list of criteria and fit into my life. Then I met Ryan. It was the closest thing I’ve ever felt to love at first sight.  He made me laugh.  He was brilliant, witty, adventurous, kind, caring, and ambitious.

I also immediately fell in love with his two six-year old twin boys, Ethan and Brandon.  Ryan had lost his late wife to breast cancer in 2008.  She was diagnosed when she was 32 and the boys were only six months old.  She passed away only three years later.  But Ryan was in a very good place now.  He had done his grieving and had opened his heart and was ready to love again. I felt like the boys needed a mom and this was where I was meant to be in life.  I was even happier than I had ever been!  My family opened their hearts to the boys. I adopted the boys and in 2013 we got married on a beautiful beach in Cancun with 60 of our friends and family. We went about life holding nothing back.  With Ryan’s history, he did not want to miss out on anything.  It had been a tough few years for Ryan when his late wife was sick then as a single Dad.  He now had such a zest for life and it went right along with my philosophy.

Nicole Lee family

Nicole’s husband Ryan with their sons Ashton, Ethan and Brandon

After our wedding- I had started to feel like I wanted to have a baby.  Ryan was hesitant but he eventually said yes.   I think he wasn’t sure it would really happen. I wasn’t either.  But five months after our wedding I was pregnant and I was the happiest pregnant person ever to walk the earth.  I had an easy pregnancy and delivery. We had a healthy, beautiful baby boy, Ashton.  I cherished every moment with him.  I loved being his mom as well as a mom to Brandon and Ethan.  We were very lucky to have my mom come and help whenever we needed her.  She was just as in love with the baby and the boys as I was and loved to come and give me breaks. When Ashton was six months old I decided to stop breast feeding.

Since I had turned 40 a few months prior I had scheduled my first mammogram. After my mom came down to stay with me, I suddenly didn’t feel like going to the appointment.  I just didn’t want to leave the baby and figured I could wait a few more months. “Just go”, my mom said.  “I’m here so just go get it done”.  Off I went and I felt strangely excited like it was sort of a rite of passage. I was 40 years old with a baby and I felt good about where my life was.

That day would change everything.  My husband who is an Einstein radiologist and his friend and colleague, Dr. Deb Copit, head of Women’s Imaging at Einstein, greeted me, and I felt flattered she was there to welcome me and that she’d read my first mammogram. I headed to the room where the scans were then taken.  Then she told me what I never thought I’d hear.  She said I had breast cancer.  My immediate reaction was “Ryan cannot go through this again”.  I never thought this would happen to me, and this couldn’t happen to Ryan twice. I was diagnosed when our baby was six months old, the exact age that the boys were when Ryan’s late wife was diagnosed.  The similarity was eerie and unbelievable. The days after that are still blur.  I

Dr. Jennifer Simmons - Chief of Breast Surgery, Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, shares Nicole's story at a recent opening reception for the PBCC's Photo Exhibit, 67 Women 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania at Einstein.

Dr. Jennifer Simmons – Chief of Breast Surgery, Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, shares Nicole’s story at a recent opening reception for the PBCC’s Photo Exhibit, 67 Women 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania at Einstein.

met Dr. Jen Simmons and she was amazing.  We actually cried together on that day I was diagnosed.  She was there not just as a breast surgeon but as a therapist and a sounding board.  It was a very dark time and very tough for my husband. Going through this once was hard enough but twice? I just prayed I’d be ok because the boys could not lose another mom and now we had a baby too.

My husband went into “clinical mode”, and was there for every meeting.  He made sure every aspect of my treatment was smooth and timely.  I can’t say enough about the wonderful treatment I had at Einstein.  I quickly began chemotherapy.  Dr. Biermann, Michele Dooley, Barb Heinzmann and all the nurses in the oncology department were unbelievable.  They were like a family to me and as much as I dreaded the chemo, I was happy seeing those faces when I arrived.  I decided to save my hair with cold caps so my husband and the boys would not see me as looking sick.  The regimen for the cold caps was very rigorous.  My Dad with the help of Ryan facilitated the hats for me at every chemotherapy session.  I wore the caps for NINE hours each time.  It was a huge amount of physical work so a different friend each time would come to help out in addition to my Dad and Ryan.  My mom came down to stay for every chemo to take care of the kids as I was sick for a while each time. After five months of chemo my MRI showed a “complete pathologic response” meaning all the cancer was gone.  This was truly a miracle.  I still was faced with a double mastectomy and reconstruction but the good news gave me extra strength.  It was a very tough time but I got through it with the help of my family. I don’t know how people do it without support.  My family and friends were there for me beyond my expectations.  Other survivors, acquaintances and friends I didn’t even know I had came out of nowhere.  My husband, my parents and my husband’s sister were there for every chemotherapy and surgery and I really didn’t worry about a thing except getting myself through it.  It was difficult to put our wonderful life on hold and have to be faced with battling cancer.  It’s been almost a year now for me and I’m doing great.  You never know what will happen in life and I never take anything for granted. I pray that I will live a long, healthy life. My husband and I are back to our normal life again.  I know this was a big bump in the road but looking at things now, my life is still perfect.

PBCC CARES Program ends a successful year

Posted By on June 1st, 2016 at 9:23 am | 0 comments.

by Pat Halpin-Murphy, President and Founder

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Over the past year, we at the PBCC have been privileged to work with a fabulous group of students from the Harrisburg School District through our CARES Program. The CARES Program (Community Advocacy & Research Education for Students) is designed for high school students grades 10-12 who want to further their knowledge in the science of breast cancer, careers in the healthcare field and participate in breast cancer awareness and advocacy as a community service.

Click here to watch our video recapping this program and hear from the students who participated.

We are thrilled to announce that we will once again be working with the Harrisburg School District for the 2016/2017 school year.

Survivor Spotlight: Marguerite Wormley, Delaware County

Posted By on May 10th, 2016 at 4:23 pm | 0 comments.

M.-Wormley-1 As soon as I turned 40 I went for an annual exam and mammogram and before I knew it, I was assigned to a breast cancer surgeon. I had chemo and radiation and chose lumpectomy. That was in 2008, it was stage 1 cancer and I’m happy to say I’m cancer free today.

Sometimes, as women, we love to be the caregiver and can have a hard time processing being helped. But you can’t go through this alone. For me, that support person was my sister-in-law. She came with me to all my medical appointments and she inspired me to keep a journal. The journal became a book, and when it became so popular it grew into a foundation. The book is called “Touch and Agree” and that’s also the name of the foundation.
I witnessed patients who had the same type treatment I did but whose insurance didn’t completely cover the cost of their medications. One of my children’s teachers shared with me that she had tapped out her savings paying for medications that her insurance didn’t cover. I knew there was a need for resources and the Touch N Agree Foundation helps women to cover those costs. I work as a senior customer service representative for Independence Blue Cross. I help people to understand their benefits and help them with their billing questions. I like to travel, especially to any place with a beach. My favorite spot is Cocoa Beach in Orlando, Florida.

Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I never would have thought that I could go through something like that. I learned just how strong I really am.

Issues Important to YOU: Lymphedema Supplies and Surprise Expenses

Posted By on May 10th, 2016 at 4:23 pm | 0 comments.

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by Pat Halpin-Murphy, President and Founder

After breast cancer surgery, about 20% of women develop some lymphedema, a painful chronic swelling of the arm following removal of lymph nodes. It can develop within days or many years after treatment. There is no known cure for lymphedema and treatment focuses on reducing the swelling and pain. Lymphedema bandages, sleeves, and compression garments offer the best relief. However, those products are not currently covered by Medicare or many insurers and are very costly for a woman who might need to pay out-of-pocket for them.

The PA Breast Cancer Coalition wants to help change that, and you can help make that change happen. If you are on Medicare and found they didn’t cover the garments and sleeves you needed, and were surprised to find that you had to pay for them out-of-pocket … we want to hear from you! Your personal story can make a difference in our efforts.

Tell your story to the PBCC at info@pabreastcancer.org, send a letter to PA Breast Cancer Coalition, 2397 Quentin Road, Suite B, Lebanon, PA 17042, or call 1-800-377-8828 x3020 to share your experiences with Medicare coverage for lymphedema supplies.

5th Annual Jeeps, Jams 4 Jugs

Posted By on May 10th, 2016 at 4:21 pm | 0 comments.

Jeeps-Jams-4-JugsRev your engines for the 5th Annual Jeeps, Jams 4 Jugs, on Saturday, June 4 at Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, in Shamokin PA. The event features a Show and Shine competition, a Jeep ride, games, music, food and more! It promises to be a fun time for the whole family, with an after party from 2-6 p.m.! Interested in the event?

Registration will be held Saturday, June 4 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A Show and Shine competition will be held at 1:00 p.m. with judging occurring during the after party. A registration fee of $15.00 is required for entering one category, and an additional $10.00 for each category entered after. Show categories include best of show, best trail ready, best restoration and more. Each winner will receive a trophy and all proceeds of the event will directly benefit the PA Breast Cancer Coalition. Not a Jeep owner but still interested? Join us at 2:00 p.m. for a live DJ, vendors, food and children’s activities. Cost is simply a donation for your entrance fee. Check out all of the details on the Jeep, Jams 4 Jugs Facebook page here.

Choose Line 32, Choose HOPE: Make a Difference this Tax Day

Posted By on April 14th, 2016 at 12:17 pm | 0 comments.

patheadshotforplBy Pat Halpin-Murphy

You can help find a cure for breast cancer! This tax season is quickly coming to an end, but there’s still time. Donate your tax refund to the PA Breast Cancer Coalition’s Refunds for Research program. Simply go to Line 32 of your state income tax form and choose code “A” to donate.

Thanks to taxpayer contributions, foundations and generous individuals, this year the PBCC awarded four $50,000 grants to help researchers in their mission to find the cause of and cure for breast cancer.

Watch our video highlighting our grant winners below.

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Remembering Cindy Spinello

Posted By on April 14th, 2016 at 12:16 pm | 0 comments.

Cindy-SpinelloThe PBCC board, staff, and volunteers are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend, Cindy Spinello. Cindy was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2012, just four months after a mammogram showed normal results.

Due to her dense breast tissue, her mammogram was unable to find the stage 4 cancer that had already spread to her spine, stomach, ovaries and lymph nodes.

Cindy told us that her goals were to be thankful for each day, to enjoy every possible moment with her family and friends, and to prevent others and their families from the emotional and physical pain experienced with a later stage breast cancer diagnosis. She took the anger she felt and used it to energize her advocacy efforts. She stood up and she spoke out.

Cindy became the PBCC’s strongest advocate for change through the Breast Density Notification Act. With her help and support, we were able to have that legislation passed requiring mammography centers to notify women of their breast density.

Countless women across Pennsylvania will benefit from her determination to ensure that they will not face the same struggle she did. We will never forget Cindy’s strength, courage and hope. She was a good friend, a fierce fighter, and a true advocate.

 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Lower Breast Cancer Risk in Obese, Postmenopausal Women

Posted By on April 14th, 2016 at 12:16 pm | 0 comments.

Omega-3-fatty-acidsObesity can be a major cause of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, but omega-3 fatty acids have the potential to lower that risk. A study done by Andrea Manni, professor and division chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, Penn State College of Medicine, showed protection comes from the anti-inflammatory effects from the fatty acid.

Breast density is a breast cancer risk. Manni’s team, in addition to researchers from Emory University and Colorado State University examined the influence of prescription omega-3 supplements on breast density in women of various weights. It is believed that women who are of a higher breast density are more likely to develop breast cancer. Researchers found that increasing the level of omega-3 acids in blood was connected with reduced breast density in women bordering obesity with a body mass index above 29. With this research, a personalized approach to breast cancer prevention can be established.

Learn more about this study.