Locals overcome breast cancer
SUMMIT COUNTY – Breast cancer isn’t a death sentence.Joan Davids, Katherine Fangmeier and Pat DiCarli are just three of the many local women who have fought breast cancer and survived.About five years ago, Davids’ annual mammogram came out negative, but a nurse reminded her that mammograms aren’t definitive and monthly exams are important. Davids began doing the monthly checks, and within three months, she found a lump that turned out to be cancerous.Mammograms and ultrasounds miss detecting breast cancer 15 percent of the time, so when women have breast tenderness, a breast mass or other symptoms, it’s important to do a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis, said Dr. Julie Gelman. And that’s the part they usually don’t want to do, she said.Another problem she runs into is women not wanting mammograms because they don’t have a family history of breast cancer. But she says only 20 percent of women with breast cancer have a family history.
“You’ve got to be your own advocate,” Davids said. “Know your body, and if you see a change, take some action.”After six months of chemotherapy and eight weeks of radiation, Davids was cancer free and has remained in remission.”I think it’s so important that women – and men – are aware of the disease and do their early testing because when it’s found early, the survival rate is extremely high,” she said. “If they do get breast cancer, it’s not a tragic health problem. It’s something that can be managed.”However, “managing” breast cancer can be expensive. Doctors diagnosed Fangmeier with stage three breast cancer September of 2003 after a mammogram. Previous regularly scheduled mammograms hadn’t picked up the tumor because it never formed into a solid mass. Rather, it formed finger-like projections throughout her breasts.
She went through eight rounds of chemotherapy, 33 radiation treatments and a bilateral mastectomy. And financially speaking, the timing couldn’t have been worse. She had surgery and chemotherapy in December and still needed treatment in January – when all of her insurance deductibles were due again. Had her treatments fallen into one calendar year, she wouldn’t have had to pay two deductibles. The deductibles and her copayments added up to more than $10,000 worth of bills within three months. Luckily, friends organized a golf tournament at Keystone last year and raised money to pay most of her bills.DeCarli knows how important raising money is, whether it’s to help pay individual bills or fund research.If research money to treat breast cancer hadn’t been available, she may have lost her breast.Doctors diagnosed DeCarli with an aggressive form of breast cancer in October of 2001. Before she researched other forms of treatment, her two choices were: Spend six consecutive weeks in Denver for radiation treatment or get a mastectomy. She originally chose a mastectomy.Then her friend, a breast cancer surgeon in Florida, found another alternative – Dr. Robert Kuske’s brachy therapy.
First, a surgeon removed the cancerous tumor. Then she went to the University of Wisconsin so Dr. Kuske could treat her. He inserted 23 hollow-core needles into the cavity in her breast where the lump had been and shot radiation pellets into it.”Like a big punch, it knocks out all of the cells around it,” she said.After the five-day treatment, she returned to Summit County and went through four sessions of chemotherapy at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center in Denver.”I think I have a strong constitution because I came through that just like you wouldn’t believe,” she said. “I was never sick a day. Part of it was we had such a support system of friends in Summit County who just inspired me.”For example, a friend lent her a $1,200 wig from Dallas to wear during chemotherapy.
Now DeCarli shares her story of hope to teach women about the alternative that worked for her. Bosom Buddies also provides information and support for any woman living with any cancer.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at email@example.com.Bosom BuddiesBosom Buddies of the Summit, which provides support to local cancer patients and survivors. The group started more than 10 years ago and has 40 members. The group hopes to expand meetings, which host guest speakers, from six times a year to 12 next year.
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