Archive for the ‘Survivor Spotlight’ Category

Survivor Spotlight – Patti Kostrubiak

Posted By on September 17th, 2012 at 11:59 am | 0 comments.

At my yearly check-up in 2004 my doctor felt a thickening in my breast. I was 39 years old so he said we should get a baseline mammogram. I had no family history or risk factors. After a biopsy, I had to decide between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. I chose lumpectomy and they removed 15 lymph nodes and six of them were positive for breast cancer. I had chemotherapy from August through February, and then had radiation for 33 straight days.

I was really annoyed that I was diagnosed because I’m a very busy mom. I thought this is going to interrupt my schedule and I just didn’t have time! Fortunately Grand View Hospital in Sellersville is just five minutes from my house so I had radiation before work, then went to work and went about my day.

Once I finished treatment I wanted to find a way to give back. When I found the PBCC’s website I thought “this is for me.” I wanted to tell my story because if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Now I represent Bucks County in the PBCC traveling photo exhibit and volunteered this year at the Take A Swing Against Breast Cancer home run derby in Reading.It was so much fun!

My husband John and I have two children. Our son Sean is 19 and our daughter Erin is 23. I work as a career EMT at Volunteer Medical Service Corps of Lansdale, and serve as a volunteer firefighter at Perkasie. This is something I always wanted to do, and so did my daughter. When she turned 18 she was old enough to be certified so we went through certification together. I also love to cross-stitch, scrapbook, and go to the beach.

The best advice I got was to never listen to anyone’s horror stories. You just take it one day at a time and one treatment at a time. And keep a positive attitude! That’s the biggest thing.

Survivor Spotlight – Lesley Rogers

Posted By on August 16th, 2012 at 10:00 am | 0 comments.

In May 2010 while participating in a breast cancer fundraiser, my husband, Scott, read the statistic about 1 in 8 women being diagnosed and immediately asked when my first mammogram was. The next day I made the appointment for 2 weeks after my 40th birthday. At the appointment the radiologist told me I needed to have a biopsy. That was Tuesday; by Friday I had the biopsy and by Monday was diagnosed.

Based on my physician’s recommendation and the BRCA test result I had a bilateral mastectomy. While my cancer was confined to the ducts it was widespread and aggressive so I was thankful I hadn’t waited to have my mammogram. Over the next 8 months I had multiple surgeries including an oophorectomy and unsuccessful reconstructive surgeries. In March 2012 I had successful DIEP surgery at Johns Hopkins. I feel grateful to my breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Soto-Hamlin and my current reconstructive surgeon Dr. Rosson for their guidance.

I had heard about the PBCC before I had breast cancer. My company, Deloitte Consulting, sponsors the October conference. And then a couple weeks after my diagnosis I received a Friends Like Me care package. I attended the 2011 conference and was excited to see the grant given to Dr. Meyers to support his cancer research. The PBCC’s tagline “finding a cure now so our daughters won’t have to” resonates loudly since we have a 4 year-old daughter, Ashley. This year we participated in the Take a Swing against Breast Cancer Home Run Derby in Harrisburg. While participating, our 6 year-old son Tyler, asked “If I hit a home run, does that mean no more breast cancer?”

I tell everyone I am an example of why you should get your mammogram as soon as you turn 40, not 6 months later. And if someone you know is diagnosed, instead of asking “can I do anything?” offer something tangible … prepare a meal or run an errand. I am lucky to have had such an amazing support group – my family, friends and co-workers made my crazy journey a little easier.

Gloria Ferri – Survivor Spotlight, Carbon County

Posted By on July 18th, 2012 at 9:59 am | 0 comments.

I was 60 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I thought it couldn’t happen to me. That was 22 years ago. My doctor had scheduled a mammogram for me and that mammogram saved my life. I wouldn’t have known about the cancer until it was too late. Sometimes women tell me that they don’t want to have a mammogram because they’re afraid it will hurt. I tell them that one little hurt is going to save you a big one later on.

When I was first diagnosed, Pat Halpin-Murphy hadn’t created the PA Breast Cancer Coalition yet. But once it got started, the PBCC invited me to represent Carbon County in the traveling photo exhibit. I agreed right away. I’m always willing to help with anything. I know that Pat and the PBCC have been working tirelessly and will always keep going to help other women.

Through surgery and radiation treatments, I had faith. And I kept my sense of humor and kept busy. That will get you through difficult times. I love to crochet and have made many bride dolls, and I wanted to do something special for the PBCC. So I made a pink doll and attached 67 roses to the train to represent the women in the 67 counties from the exhibit, and I added pink beads in memory of those we have lost. I was happy to be able to present the doll to Pat at the recent exhibit opening at the Hazelton Health & Wellness Center. Quite a few friends have asked me to make one for them but I won’t make another one like it. It’s one of a kind, just like Pat is.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of changes, like digital mammograms and other advances. I see many more women getting mammograms now and talking openly about their breast cancer. It’s really good to see that.

Summer edition of FrontLine now available online

Posted By on June 22nd, 2012 at 9:27 am | 0 comments.

Take a read through our summer edition of FrontLine, our quarterly newsletter. If you would like to register for the 2012 Conference, to sign up for the Take a Swing Against Breast Cancer home run derby, or to find out more about our Grassroots Partners, take a browse through our site!

Survivor Spotlight: Gail Hibshman

Posted By on June 15th, 2012 at 9:02 am | 0 comments.

“There are only two kinds of women in the world: those who fear breast cancer and those who have it.” … Lt. Van Buren of TV’s Law and Order

In 1999 I fell into both categories. What showed up in my mammogram looked like salt sprinkles which are calcifications. My doctors offered me two choices, a mastectomy or lumpectomy with six weeks of radiation. Then it was time to call my daughter-in-law Heather. Heather said I should get a second opinion. I went to Fox Chase Cancer Center where they strongly recommended the mastectomy. My head was spinning. I didn’t have any knowledge about this so listened to the people who did.

My advice is to always have someone else in the room with you when you’re going to hear about treatment options. I was in a fog but my husband Glenn wrote everything down and read it back to me later. I had the mastectomy and I use a cotton-filled prosthesis. It feels like rice pillows and I’m comfortable with that.

Glenn always made me feel attractive and desirable and that nothing had changed. I don’t know what I would have done if he looked at me differently. My sons were a huge support to me and I can never thank them enough.

I’ve learned these lessons:

Give yourself the gift of savoring the moment. Smell a rose, hug a pet, kiss your husband.

Don’t live in the land of “what if?” because “what if’s” don’t prepare you for the future. Most “what if’s” never happen.

Open yourself up to other women. Their beauty, strength, and caring will lift you up.

I retired from teaching English at Cornwall Lebanon School District in 2003. Now I work with Three Dog Landscaping, a family business. I love reading, taking day trips, and spending time with my 6 year-old granddaughter Molly.

Survivor Spotlight – Tara Ripka: Early Detection Saved Her Life

Posted By on May 15th, 2012 at 11:24 am | 0 comments.

I was 27 years old when I felt a pain in my left breast and discovered a lump. I wasn’t really worried about it because I believed I was too young to have breast cancer. A month later at my annual check-up I told the doctor about the lump. He sent me for a needle biopsy which found irregular cells. Then they sent me for a lumpectomy but still no one, from my doctor to the surgeon, seemed concerned. In fact, before I went under anesthesia for my lumpectomy the doctor said, “It’s not cancer. You’re too young. I’ll owe you dinner if I’m wrong.” He still owes me that dinner.

That was June 2000, two days before my husband and I were scheduled to move out of the house we had sold. We were moving in with my parents to wait for our new house to be built. That turned out to be a good thing because there’s nothing like having your parents take care of you when you’re sick. Whenever my husband was working on the new house, my parents were there for me.

My sister was a great support to me too. After a second surgery to get clear margins and a sentinel node biopsy, I couldn’t move my arm and dress myself. I was too stubborn to ask the nurses to help me so I called my sister and, of course, she came.

Radiation and chemotherapy followed the lumpectomy. My first chemo treatment was on August 9, 2000. I remember the date because it was my parents’ wedding anniversary. I didn’t get sick from the first treatment but a few days later I remember drinking a soda that I thought was flat. Then all kinds of food lost its taste, including chocolate! That really made me mad! The next two chemo treatments didn’t go as smoothly but I knew it was what my body needed to get better. By the 4th and final chemo treatment, the new home was completed and ready to move in. I couldn’t have handled all of that without my family.

At 27, I had been thinking that I was invincible. I learned very quickly that none of us are. I appreciate life and my family so much more now. I had to wait for two years after completing chemo treatment before getting pregnant, so we could be sure that the chemo was out of my system. My husband Todd and I now have two daughters, Shaylin and Sadie. I will do everything in my power to keep myself healthy and I will continue to fight for a cure for my daughters’ futures.

I have a mammogram and a breast MRI every year. I’ve had genetic testing and tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. That means I am still at a greater risk for recurrence. I may decide to have a double mastectomy at some time in the future. I had my ovaries removed which dramatically reduced my risk of ovarian cancer. The hardest part of that surgery was instantly going through menopause at the age of 35.

A lot of my friends are under 40 and haven’t starting having mammograms yet. I remind them that we’re never too young and encourage them to do breast self-exams and to be aware. And I tell everyone that if you know someone who is going through cancer, you can make a difference for them. You can help with their childcare or household chores, cook a meal, offer a ride, send a greeting card, make a phone call, or give them a hug … all are things you can do to support them.

Survivor Spotlight – Heather Vail

Posted By on April 13th, 2012 at 9:02 am | 0 comments.

I attended my first PBCC conference in 2001 when my good friend Helen Harshbarger was honored with the Shining Light award. Through Helen, I also became involved with the PBCC’s traveling photo exhibit. Then in 2006 my routine mammogram uncovered a density. I had a biopsy, just to be sure it was nothing to be concerned about but as it turned out, it was breast cancer. I had surgery, radiation, and was on tamoxifen for the next five years.

I had worked in the women’s center at Guthrie Hospital for quite some time, but until you’ve walked in those shoes yourself you really don’t know what it’s like. I was always supportive of patients and friends but being on the receiving end of that support showed me how important that is.

One of my two sons was in Iraq at the time of my diagnosis and I didn’t tell him about it. I didn’t want him worrying about me while I was worrying about him. My other son, my husband, my daughter-in-law, friends and neighbors were wonderful! Faith in God helped me get through surgery and recovery.

Now I work in the breast center at Guthrie, and one of the things I enjoy most is stepping in for Karen Cartwright, the nurse navigator, when she’s not available. I take the patient’s history, ask them how they are doing, and let them know that I’ve been through it too.

I like to read, walk my two rescue dogs, and work in my garden. My husband Red and I also have a 12 year-old cat that dislikes everyone and tolerates the dogs. I follow professional football and am an avid Penn State fan. I also watch “Dancing with the Stars,” and I actually vote!

Heather is featured in the PBCC’s traveling photo exhibit 67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania.  See Heather’s photo and quote at any of our Spring opening receptions.

Spring 2012 edition of FrontLine

Posted By on March 28th, 2012 at 11:56 am | 0 comments.

By now, if you’re on our mailing list, you should have received the latest edition of FrontLine. The PBCC sends out this print newsletter every quarter to let you know what we’re up to across the state and how YOU can get involved!

Take a read through our online edition and share it with your friends!