Kathy Vantran: Journalist Chronicles Cancer in the Fight of Her Life
Page 4 | Home
Each radiation treatment didn't take that long, but because of my breast cancer, I had to hold my left arm up over my head. My arm was in a metal holder, but there were still times when it would start to shake involuntarily because of the weakened muscles. Thankfully, everything worked out just fine.
The radiologist and oncologists said I would get tired, and I did. They said I would develop burns, and I did. They said it would be a "piece of cake" after everything else I went through, and they were right. My last day for radiation was Aug. 12, 2008.
After radiation, a "survivor" party celebrated the end of the prescribed regimen and thanked family and friends. It was a wondrous day. The sun shone brightly; there was a slight breeze that made the balloons dance. And, most of all, it was full of loved ones who had made the journey so much more bearable. It was a celebration of laughter, a celebration of hope, a celebration of life!
A few days before the celebration, I received a card in the mail. It was a donation to the cancer foundation in my name from my youngest nieces and nephews, ages 7 to 14. Their moms said the kids wanted to do something with their own money. Again, I tear up at the
thoughtfulness of these youngsters, and realize how very fortunate I am.
To go with our new beginnings, we brought a new puppy into the fold. Her name is Genesis -- Gena for short -- and she is full of life! Some thought I was crazy and, after the first week of chasing her around, I thought I was, too. But, I look into her sweet face and know that it was the right thing for me.
My burns are healing, my energy level is improving, and I'm getting stronger. I'm back to work full-time. My appetite has pretty much returned. My hair is growing back, and my head doesn't hurt. I still have tingling and swelling in my fingers and toes, a side-effect from the chemo, but they say it may still go away with time. My left arm aches and sometimes swells, an effect from the lymph node surgery. With exercise and time, this, too, may go away.
The plan now is to keep an eye on things by having periodic blood work, mammograms, PET/CT scans and doctor's visits. Early detection is vital in defeating this deadly disease. I am one of the lucky ones.
Cancer is a very scary disease, and battling it is no easy task. It summons you to draw on courage you didn't know you had. And one of
the most important ingredients is the support and strength you gather from friends and loved ones. Again, I count myself very privileged. I seriously doubt I would have made it through the past year without their unending love and support. I'm very thankful to be here to write this.
My journey is far from over. But, I know that with my loved ones by my side, I will tackle the bumps -- or craters -- in the road with everything I can muster.
My nieces have already committed to the cancer relay on Mother's Day 2009. I intend to join them.
Breast Cancer Awareness
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Oct. 17, 2008 - Each year, more than 192,000 American women learn they have breast cancer. About five to 10 percent of these women have a hereditary form of the disease. Alterations or mutations in certain genes make some women more susceptible to developing breast and other types of cancer.
Inherited genes labeled breast cancer 1 and breast cancer 2 are involved in many cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Families with a history of multiple breast cancer cases or of an Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish background have a higher chance of inheriting BRCA1 or BRCA2.
Women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are three to seven times more likely to develop breast cancer than women without these genes. Men with BRCA1 and primarily BRCA2 genes also have an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer. The BRCA2 gene has also been associated with an increased risk of lymphoma, melanoma, and pancreas, gallbladder, bile duct and stomach cancer.
It is advised that those with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer seek testing for these genes. A positive test result indicates a person has inherited a known mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 and has an increased risk of developing certain cancers. However, a positive result only means that a person is at risk, not whether cancer will actually develop. Not everyone who inherits these genes will develop cancer.
Both men and women who inherit a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, whether or not they develop cancer themselves, may pass the alteration on to their sons and daughters. However, not all children of people with this gene will inherit the alteration.
Several methods are available for managing cancer risk in individuals with BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
- Careful monitoring for symptoms of cancer may be able to catch the disease at an early stage. Monitoring methods for breast cancer may include a mammography and a clinical breast exam. For ovarian cancer,
- Prophylactic surgery, which involves removing at-risk tissue, may reduce the chance of developing cancer. Because not all at-risk tissue can be removed by these procedures, some women have developed breast or ovarian cancer even after prophylactic surgery.
- Certain behaviors may decrease breast cancer risk such as exercising regularly and limiting alcohol consumption.
- Chemoprevention involves the use of natural or synthetic substances to reduce the risk of developing cancer or to reduce the chance that cancer will come back.
- Testing for BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes is done on a blood sample that is drawn in a laboratory, doctor's office, hospital or clinic. The blood sample is then sent to a laboratory to check for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
monitoring methods may include a transvaginal ultrasound, blood testing and clinical exams.