Ida, WHITE HORSE
With three grown children, 10 grandchildren and a part-time antique business, Ida, 67 has plenty to keep her busy. She was not about to let breast cancer stop her from enjoying her life and her retirement.
Ida was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. At that time, she decided to have a simple mastectomy at Lancaster General Hospital. Based on her family history (her mother, aunt and first cousin had breast cancer), she was referred to the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Risk Evaluation Program at Lancaster General Health. She was found to have a BRCA 2 mutation, placing her at a higher risk for breast, ovarian and skin cancer. Subsequent to that, she decided to have a mastectomy in her unaffected breast.
“Knowing that my chance of getting breast cancer in my other breast was 79% was the deciding factor,” says Ida. This information is so useful to have and allowed me to make a decision that was best for me.” Both surgeries were performed by Daleela Dodge, MD. Her medical oncologist was Joan Kane, MD. “My doctors have been wonderful and have guided me through all of these difficult decisions,” added Ida.
“The Cancer Risk Evaluation Program provides counseling and coordinates genetic testing for those individuals who may have an increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer,” says Rachelle J. Gehr, MS, CGC, genetic counselor at LG Health. “The information can be empowering. Although many patients choose to have increased monitoring, such as MRI and digital mammography every six months, some choose to have surgery to further reduce the risk. It’s a very personal decision.”
PERSONALIZED CANCER CARE
After going through her second mastectomy, Ida is able to reflect back on her care. “One of the most helpful things about this whole experience was working with my nurse navigator, Lynn,” says Ida. “She was absolutely wonderful. Every time I called, someone was available to speak to me or would call me right back. Whenever I had questions or needed help in understanding what the doctor had said, I could just pick up the phone and Lynn was there to help.”
Although her surgeries were difficult, Ida was thankful for the specialized oncology unit at Lancaster General Hospital. “The nurses there were so good. I never had any issues and it was so quiet, which really allowed me to rest and recuperate.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY
After receiving word that she had the gene mutation, Ida asked her son, Jeff, to be tested as well. He recently has learned that he also has the mutation, placing him at increased risk for male breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma. In addition, it is possible that he has passed this on to his two daughters. “It’s a piece of information, but it doesn’t dictate my life,” says Jeff. “It’s good to be aware of these things so that you can take action and my girls can take action, when it is time. If anything develops, we can catch it early.”
Ironically, Ida has two daughters-in law who have battled breast cancer as well. “It’s been a challenging year for our family, but throughout it all we have each other and our faith in God to stay strong,” Ida said.