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Kathy Rozanski will never forget November 14, 2007. It was the day after her father-in-law died from complications from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma ... AND her mother was diagnosed with Stage II invasive ductal carcinoma. Not a good day.
Kathy supported her mother as she started her course of treatment; a lumpectomy, followed by 33 rounds of radiation. Rather than focusing on herself, Kathy's mother was concerned for her two daughters. Kathy and her sister scheduled their mammograms.
"On January 11, 2008, the day my mom came home following her second surgery, I had my mammogram," recalled Kathy. "I read a poster that stated one in eight women would be diagnosed with breast cancer this year." She thought her "one in eight" was her mom. Little did she know, she'd be diagnosed, too.
"Like my mother, two months to the day (January 14, 2008), I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma."
After finding something suspicious on the film, the radiologist called Kathy back for further testing. A needle biopsy was performed which confirmed the diagnosis. "I never thought I'd hear those words, 'Kathy, you have cancer.' Like my mother, two months to the day (January 14, 2008), I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma." Kathy recalled her life flashing before her; she had an 11 year old son. She had a lot of living to do. She was scared, but she knew what she needed to do.
Although Kathy and her family reside in New Jersey, she decided to travel to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia for treatment. Kathy met with a multidisciplinary treatment team of physicians who worked together to develop a tailored course of treatment. "I was impressed by the way in which the doctors from each specialty work closely together," she explained. "I adore all of them."
Kathy's treatment started with a bilateral mastectomy. Next, she met with Dr. Sameer Patel, who specializes in plastic and reconstructive surgery. He explained all of Kathy's options and she decided to have the TRAM flap reconstructive surgery, in which he used her abdominal tissue to reconstruct the breast.
"Dr. Patel is terrific. He is so warm and friendly, I felt like I was talking to a friend."
"My TRAM surgery was an extensive process and Dr. Patel was attentive, compassionate and explained every detail of my surgery and recovery."
Once she recovered from surgery, Kathy's medical oncologist, Dr. Holly Dushkin, and her surgeon, Dr. Richard Bleicher, helped prepare her for the next course of treatment, which included 20 rounds of chemotherapy. And that was followed by 26 rounds of radiation therapy, which she chose to have at a facility near her home. "Although I did experience most of the common side effects - hair loss, radiation skin irritation - I got through it. I'm a survivor."
"I had decided early on that I was not going to let breast cancer get me. I was going to get it. I had a supportive husband and group of family and friends who showered me with love, help and support. And I retained my positive attitude. Cancer was messing with the wrong person!"
"All of my doctors all treated me like I was their only patient."
"I never felt rushed at my follow-up appointments," shared Kathy. "I still visit my nurses after my appointments and have a special friendship with Barbara Klimowicz from Pastoral Services, who visited me will I was in the hospital."
Kathy is often called upon to support other women facing a diagnosis of breast cancer. She tells them eliminating breast cancer isn't going to be easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. But with power, courage and time, she believes women can survive.
Given Kathy's strong family history with breast cancer, she met with the genetic counselors in the Risk Assessment Program at Fox Chase and underwent testing. "I was happy to learn I didn't carry the BRCA gene," shared Kathy. "The Risk Assessment Program is a great feature offered by Fox Chase."
Kathy is proud to be a member of the Fox Chase family. "I will give back to them in any way that I can for the rest of my life," added Kathy, who was recently appointed to the Board of Associates at Fox Chase. The Board of Associates is long standing group of volunteers who support patient care and cancer research at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
"Fox Chase gave me life back."
"I wake up in the morning and don't even remember that I once had cancer," she said. "Fox Chase gave me life back."