Kathy & Kristen's Message
Cancer survivors and co-survivors are a part of our Rowan community, yet often we are not aware of who they are. We are two breast cancer survivors that work on campus among you, and we invite you to join us at the annual “These Boobs are Made for Walkin’” 4-mile Walk/Run on Saturday, April 27th right here on Rowan’s campus.
Sponsored and coordinated by the Recreation Center, this event is now in its 4th year! Proceeds benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s Central and South Jersey affiliate, which means that 75% of the funds stay in our local community. These funds go to local programs that provide free or low cost mammograms for underserved women in our area. Along with Komen for the Cure, our vision is a world without breast cancer.
Please join us in making this year’s event the biggest in its history. It promises to be a fun and meaningful day as we work toward a cure and celebrate life!
On November 14, 2007 my mom was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. It was the day after my father-in-law died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I wondered how could this be happening! My Mom worried about my sister and me and urged us to remember to get our mammograms. I went for my mammogram on January 14, 2008, which was the day Mom came home surgery . As I sat in the waiting room, I read a poster that stated that one in eight women would be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. My Mom was that one in eight--I knew that one in eight person. And it hit home that our family was affected by this horrible disease.
I then had my mammogram and waited for my results. I got called back (like may of us do), as they found something suspicious. They ordered a needle biopsy and four days later (two months after my Mom was diagnosed) I heard the words I never thought I would have to hear: “Kathy, you have cancer.” I was diagnosed with breast cancer, just like my Mom.
I was 47 years old. I was wife, a mother, a sister and a daughter, and I was scared to death. Seven weeks later I had a double mastectomy, followed by reconstruction. From April to September I had 20 rounds of chemotherapy. For 26 consecutive days in November, I had radiation treatments. I suffered from radiation burns. I missed 12 weeks of work. I lost my breasts, my hair, my eyebrows, and my eyelashes. What I didn’t lose was my faith, my spirit and my yearning to be alive.
I had an 11 year old son, and I needed to be strong. I was not going to let breast cancer get the best of me. I had supportive group of family and friends who gave me love, help and support. I had a positive attitude--cancer was messing with the wrong person. And here I am! I am a survivor, and I am celebrating 5 cancer-free years in January and will live a long life.
As a survivor, I am grateful for Rowan’s breast cancer walk/run and that the proceeds benefit Komen Central and South Jersey, which means that the money raised stays in our area. Let’s keep the dream for a cure alive. This event is just one day…one reality check…one celebration. Take action and believe that together we can make a difference and work our way to a cancer free world.
Surviving means that you are living. I am living, and I am a survivor.
In March of 2004 at the age of 32, I found a lump in my left breast. With no history of breast cancer in my family, I wasn’t performing self-exams at my age and discovered the lump by chance (thanks to a big hug from my husband, Colin, who I now credit with saving my life!). What I did not allow myself to believe, however, was that it was nothing. I immediately saw my doctor, and a biopsy confirmed that I had breast cancer. I will never forget the feeling of hearing that news— the stomach flip, followed by immediate response of “what’s the next step.”
For those that don’t know me, I’m the type of person that takes comfort in action (and remembers to actually feel much later). Although I had a great medical team, I began to independently research my treatment options. In addition to doing traditional treatment (lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation), I adopted complimentary practices as well. I began eating a macrobiotic diet (which I’ve modified over the years to be mostly vegan), took supplements to boost my immune system, and even had sessions with an acupuncturist to assist with the nausea from chemotherapy. I credit my quick healing from the surgery and radiation to the alternative therapies and healthy diet.
At first I dealt with my diagnosis with as much privacy as possible, sharing information only with very close family and friends. I was particularly concerned with how I would be viewed at work, as I didn’t want anyone to think of me as a “sick person.” Over time I learned to be proud of my status as a survivor and began to open up more about my experience, particularly if it could help others who were going through the same thing.
One of my first encounters being upfront with my diagnosis was my participation in the 2004 Race for the Cure© in Princeton, NJ. The support I received from family and friends was amazing, and I was able to successfully complete the 5K walk in the midst of my chemotherapy treatment. Soon afterward, I began to volunteer for the Komen Central and South Jersey affiliate, which was (and continues to be) one of the greatest contributions to my physical and emotional healing.
In late 2007, I experienced a second diagnosis of breast cancer (DCIS) in my right breast, which was detected during a routine mammogram. I typically joke that my right breast got jealous of all of the attention that the left one got. While I recognized the risk of keeping my breasts, I opted to have a lumpectomy and partial breast radiation.
In 2008 I returned to the Race for the Cure© and achieved a goal I never thought possible: I ran it! Having never been a runner, I was so excited to have the endurance to complete a 5K. I’ve since done other 5K benefit runs, and I was super-pleased when Rowan began its annual “These Boobs are Made for Walkin’” benefitting Komen Central and South Jersey. How perfect! I am so proud to work for a University that gives back to the community and to a cause that is so close to me.
In reflecting back on my experience, I recall something I had heard early in my journey with breast cancer: your time as a survivor starts with the date of your diagnosis. For me, I believe that I was existing with breast cancer until I found a way to give back. Komen has provided me with the opportunity to truly be a survivor in every sense of the word.