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Moving half way across the country with 2 small children for her husband's new job can be stressful for some, but Kim Hagerich took it in stride. Kim and Todd settled into a friendly family-oriented neighborhood in a northern Philadelphia suburb.
Kim quickly made many friends by getting involved in a book club, mother's group and preschool. She and her husband wanted a third child, and based on her fertility history, she began taking progesterone (a hormone that is connected to pregnancy). Not soon after, Kim found a lump in her breast.
"I had a burning sensation in my chest and felt a tiny lump."
"My doctor brushed it off because I was only 36, had no knowledge of family history of breast cancer and because cancer usually doesn't present with pain," explained Kim. She took her doctor's advice and waited.
Coincidentally, Kim's husband, Todd, who worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb, attended a breast cancer educational seminar at work. Todd learned that progesterone actually can feed a tumor, and that if her lump was in fact cancer, the drug was helping the cancer to grow.
Her husband urged Kim to get a mammogram.
The mammography results were shocking. Kim had multiple tumors in her breast and in her lymph nodes. As someone new to the area, Kim was not sure where to go for treatment.
"I knew I was in good hands at Fox Chase. I didn't have to look anywhere else."
"My husband asked for a referral from the President of Oncology at Bristol-Myers Squibb. He suggested I see Dr. Lori Goldstein at Fox Chase Cancer Center. As soon as I met Dr. Goldstein and the other members of her team, I knew I was in good hands at Fox Chase," said Kim. "I didn't have to look anywhere else."
In November 2005, Kim underwent a single mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at Fox Chase. After a quick recovery, Kim began an aggressive course of chemotherapy, which was successful. Because the cancer spread to her lymph nodes, Kim's last step was radiation therapy under the medical supervision of Dr. Gary Freedman, radiation oncologist.
"I feel blessed to have such fantastic doctors and nurses treating me."
"I am so thankful we ended up in Pennsylvania. Our kind neighbors and friends showed their support by preparing meals, decorating our house for the holidays and helping to care for my children," recalled Kim. "Fox Chase is the other reason I'm happy we came to Pennsylvania. I feel blessed to have such fantastic doctors and nurses treating me. Everyone at Fox Chase is friendly and helpful," she continued.
"At one appointment, Kim's mother watched Dr. Goldstein reach out to hold my hand and give me a hug. My mother was amazed. She'd never seen that warmth and compassion from a doctor," recalled Kim. Kim successfully finished treatment by the fall of 2007.
Creating a place for young women with breast cancer to gather
"After attending several breast cancer support groups, I realized my issues were very different than those of the other women. It was a factor of my age. While they were concerned about seeing their grandchildren grow up, I was worried that I would miss the first day of my daughter's kindergarten," explained Kim. "I wanted to create a place where young women with breast cancer could meet, trade ideas and discuss pertinent issues in their lives. With my friend Stacy, we've done that."
Kim started a local chapter of Young Survival Coalition, an international, nonprofit network of breast cancer survivors and supporters dedicated to the concerns and issues that are unique to young women and breast cancer. Kim's group has over 80 members and meets monthly at various locations in the Philadelphia area. They have begun to reach out to college-age women at health fairs.
The next chapter in Kim's life
"This is a whole new and exciting part of my life," said Kim. Last year, she completed the breast cancer 3-day walk. She also spent a day at Fox Chase as a 'researcher for a day' at Fox Chase Cancer Center. After that, Kim represented the Linda Creed Foundation in Washington to lobby for funding for breast cancer research. In the fall of 2009, Kim began a part-time job working for the Linda Creed Foundation.
"Before breast cancer, I was not looking forward to turning 40. Now that I'm almost there, I can't wait. I feel so fortunate to be alive and well," said Kim.
Kim's family kept breast cancer a secret.
After going through treatment, Kim was surprised to learn she did in fact have a family history of breast cancer. She lost 2 great-aunts to breast cancer. But because that generation did not talk about cancer, she never knew how they died. Another great-aunt and cousin were diagnosed after Kim.
Kim recently underwent genetic testing through the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment Program at Fox Chase. Fortunately, she does not carry the BRCA gene, which would have increased the risk of cancer for her daughters and herself.
Grateful to be alive.
Kim is grateful to her husband Todd, as well as her team of doctors at Fox Chase. "The thought of missing out on being a mom was more devastating than dealing with cancer. I still cry every time I help out in my daughter's kindergarten class," said Kim. "I feel so fortunate to be alive and well today.