Archive by Author

Survivor Story – Terri

7 Aug

TerriApril 30, 2014. It’s a date I’ll never forget. And unlike some of the other important dates in my life (Jan. 13, 1995 – the birth of my daughter; Oct. 7, 1989 – my marriage), April 30 is remembered not because of its happy events. To the contrary, it was the date I heard the words no woman ever wants to hear (and which I never expected), “You have breast cancer.”


The following weeks were full of doctor visits, tests, scans, tears, anxiety and, much to my surprise, laughter and friendships (old and new). Now, just a little more than two months into it, I can see that breast cancer has already taught me so much, including:


  • Cancer isn’t necessarily a death sentence. To the contrary. I have met so many people who have been through this disease and who are not only surviving but thriving. I plan to join the group of survivors.
  • Every case is different. Your diagnosis doesn’t necessarily provide you with a crystal ball into your long-term prognosis. You also have to know that the effects of treatments vary from person to person. While some women have to take a week off of work following each treatment, others are sometimes able to push through it. Don’t compare your progress to others’. Listen to your body. And take the time YOU need to return to health.
  • Breast cancer has a huge network of supporters. Within days of receiving this devastating diagnosis, three survivors had reached out to me and spent hours with me on the phone sharing their personal experiences, encouragement, tips and insights. I’ve met others along the way. Several of these amazing women have visited me during treatments; sent cards, letters and other uplifting gifts; reached out regularly throughout the process to see how I’m doing and, I’m sure, have become lifelong friends.
  • You don’t have to go through it alone. Charlotte offers a wealth of support services to breast cancer patients, particularly through the Pink House and the Buddy Kemp Center. Take advantage of those resources that speak to you. Educate yourself and your loved ones about your illness and reach out to those who can support you throughout your journey to recovery.
  • Your friends and family members really do want to help. Let them. It’s okay to accept offers of food, transportation to doctor visits, etc., even when (maybe especially if) you’re used to being independent. Accepting offers of support not only helps you at a time when you really need it, but it makes your friends and family members feel good because they’re able to demonstrate through their actions their love for you. It’s a win/win for everyone involved.


There have been many other learnings along the way and, I’m sure, I’ll continue to learn throughout this journey. My goal is to ultimately pay it forward by serving as a resource to others who one day hear the words, “You have breast cancer.” I hope to be one of the survivors who reaches out to let those women know that while this might be the end of life as they know it, it’s the beginning of a life very much worth living.




Woman With Aggressive Cancer Delays Treatment in the Name of Science

4 Aug

Dr. Kimberly Koss

Mother, grandmother, and biomedical scientist Kimberly Koss of Illinois is battling a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer, called triple negative — but has chosen to skip an initial round of chemotherapy in order to donate some of her deadly cells to science.

“It’s important research. Triple negative tumors are poorly understood, underfunded and have a high mortality rate, so hopefully this could help save lives in the long run,” Koss, 57, told Yahoo Health.

Though in the first days of her early May diagnosis she was “immobilized with grief,” Koss soon found motivation to contribute to science in her daughter and three granddaughters, ages 3, 5, and 6. “The clock is ticking with this disease, and we don’t know if there is a hereditary component,” she explained. “So to protect my daughter and my dear granddaughters, I needed to help find out.” She’s also set up a Facebook page, Hot Pink Activism, to help pressure Congress into triple-negative research, and launched a crowdfunding site to help pay for the research of her cells at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. With scientists already working to analyze her cells, she said, “Every day, that gives me hope.”

Triple negative breast cancer is especially aggressive, and is so named because the tumor cells test negative for estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 receptors — making treatment difficult, as those receptors are the three main targets of attack with chemotherapy treatment. This form of breast cancer is also more likely to spread than other types, accounts for 10 to 20 percent of all breast cancers, and disproportionally affects African American women.

Koss recently started a grueling 18-week course of weekly chemo in hopes of slowing the cancer’s growth, but it began more than two months later than doctors had recommended: While triple-negative treatment typically includes pre-surgery chemotherapy to shrink tumors and improve prognosis, Koss decided to have mastectomy surgery before the chemo so that scientists could harvest her unaltered tumor in order to create a usable cell line for research.

“This will be tremendously helpful in figuring out what causes this type of cancer, and how to treat it,” Koss’s friend and colleague Keith Jones, PhD told Yahoo Health regarding her tumor donation. Jones is heading the Loyola research team that’s creating the immortal cell line — laboratory-grown human cells that scientists use to test theories about the causes and treatment of diseases, in part by culturing those cells in mice. Still, Jones said he was of two minds regarding Koss’s decision, which she told him about only after her surgery, when he visited her in the hospital.

“It’s always a little scary to hear a friend say they were taking a chance on something that could cost their life or health,” Jones said. “I don’t know if, in the same situation, I could do the same. It’s very brave.” He added that the prognosis with this type of cancer is usually just a few months to two years.

24 Hours of Booty and Chris Draft

26 Jul
at 24 Hours of Booty

at 24 Hours of Booty

I volunteered in the Wind River Cancer & Wellness tent this weekend at 24 Hours of Booty in Charlotte. I did this last year too and this is such an amazing event, I am so lucky that I was asked to volunteer again this year. Today we had a very special visitor in the Wind River tent. His name is Chris Draft and he was a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, the St Louis Rams – and other teams in his NFL career. We were making healthy juice smoothies in our tent and handing them out to the Booty riders, volunteers, vendors, staff, and kids. So along comes Chris and as he is enjoying a smoothie we are all chatting and trying to stay cool, gosh it was hot today. So here he is in his Booty attire and his KEEP POUNDING jersey and I ask “so, who are you riding for today?” He gets this huge smile on his face (and what a smile he has) and he says “everyone….I am, uh….riding for everyone.” So I say “well then, you are riding for me – and I thank you for riding, I am survivor”….he gets another big old smile on his face and you says “you are very welcome. I am also riding for my wife”….his smile stays on his face and we just kind of look at each other for a moment. I wanted to ask him about his wife but someone wanted to take some pictures and the smoothies were flying so I didn’t get to ask. He had such a sweet spirit about him and I wanted to know more, so when I got home I proceeded to research his story….and what a story it is. In December 2010 his longtime girlfriend Keasha was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. From what I have read she fought a hard battle with a smile on her face and a courageous spirit. On November 27, 2011 she and Chris were married. On December 27, 2011, one month later, Keasha passed away.

Here is a small part of their story:

May 13, 1973 – December 27, 2011

Lakeasha Monique Rutledge Draft courageously faced lung cancer, showing us all with every breath that we all need to hold onto life and love with both hands for as long as we can.  Not just an inspiration, but a light, and a force that led the way with a beautiful, sweet smile and bright shining eyes that both belied the pure steel of her strength and determination. 

Strong is too pale, too shallow and too small of a word to describe Keasha’s vibrancy… Quite simply, she was ferocious. She fiercely held onto life, and love with a forcefulness that was absolutely awe-inspiring and completely breathtaking.

Born on May 13, 1973 to Tommy and Gail Rutledge in Anderson, South Carolina, she was always a shining star while she attended the Palmetto schools of Anderson District One, and graduated a year early with honors. Keasha was a faithful member of her family church New Prospect Baptist Church of Williamston, SC. Always active and ambitious, Keasha participated in many organizations from National Honor Society to earning the title of captain on the varsity cheerleading squad. She was known for her phenomenal dancing ability, although her track and field accomplishments were stellar also, as she placed first in the high jump at the state meet every year from seventh through twelfth grade. She still holds the school record for high jump. As a Clemson University student, she was a well-loved classmate, dancer for the Rallycats and was inducted into the Lambda Theta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. in the Spring of 1992. Keasha received her Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Clemson University in 1995. She began her career in engineering for Cutler-Hammer. Keasha was an NBA dancer and beloved teammate for the Charlotte Hornets Honeybees. She began working as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Sanofi-Aventis in Charlotte and transferred to Atlanta, Georgia where she worked until her illness transpired. On November 27, 2011, she married her long-time sweetheart, Christopher Draft.

Keasha leaves to cherish beautiful memories her loving husband, Chris Draft; parents, Tommy and Gail Rutledge; parents-in-law, Anthony and Rose Draft; maternal grandmother, Wilma Clement; paternal grandmother, Synola Rutledge; and a host of relatives and friends.

And here is a link to their foundation:

I think this is my very favorite part of 24 Hours of Booty; meeting new people, hearing their stories, being able to thank the riders and continuing to expand my perspective of cancer and how it affects all of us. Like Chris said to me earlier today “I am riding for everyone.”



Tomosynthesis – Dense Breasts??

24 Jul

Reblogged from Dr McGann –  Legacy Health Educators 

From the Physician’s Desk … Weekly Blog! 


I have been asked, “Is the “new” breast mammogram another better than regular mammogram?”  Well, let me tell you a little about what it is…and then you can become your own advocate and make the decision best for you.

Breast tomosynthesis (also known as 3-D mammography) was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for routine clinical use in addition to standard/conventional mammography (Tomosynthesis should not be used alone). Tomosynthesis is a modification of digital mammography that uses a moving x-ray source that can reconstruct thin slices of images and allow the Radiologist to detect and distinguish abnormalities better.

In the screening setting, tomosynthesis may help to decrease recall rates by being able to show true lesions better. This was proven in several studies.

In the diagnostic setting, tomosynthesis improves lesion characterization that may result in fewer false positive biopsies and increase the rate of cancer detection.

breast density

When used in screening mode, the patient is exposed to approximately twice the usual radiation dose, which is sometimes is greater if the patient has dense or thick breasts. However, newer tomosynthesis creates a synthetic 2-D image from the 3-D images, and thereby lowers the radiation dose to slightly above that of a conventional mammogram.  See video below for further explanation on how tomosynthesis works.

Is this a trade off? My opinion…no. Improved detection and lower recall rates with slight increase in radiation dose vs “normal” radiation exposure from conventional mammogram with higher recall rates…and all the anxiety and psychological effects to boot? However, the decision is yours.







Not Prepared For This…But Is Anyone Ever?

20 Jul

Last Thursday I got a visit from someone I know and love, who came to ask me if I could attend an appointment on Friday morning, for someone else I know and love. When I heard who this was for and what it was about – nothing could keep me away from this appointment. Nothing.

You all know my friend Michelle by now. I just posted a blog about her in June regarding our fun evening at Relay for Life. When I ended that blog post with something about Michelle’s fight with cancer really and truly being a relay, I wasn’t kidding. Obviously I didn’t know the news that was coming her way on July 17, but it’s funny when people write a pubic blog, like this one, your words often hold a little bit deeper meaning. Just because you wrote something and you published it on the internet words become a little more real. Or maybe words just have a little less wiggle room once they are written and read.

I am posting this about Michelle, first and foremost, to ask for prayers. Please put her on your prayer lists at church, add her to your own prayers, ask someone who you know, who is a prayer warrior, to pray for her.

Secondly I am posting this about Michelle because I want everyone to know how special she is. Not only to me – but to many people. I am getting all kinds of offers to help her with trips to her appointments, house cleaning, dinners, visits, and ideas of how we can rally around her to get her through the next two months while she is under this new treatment regimen.

Michelle’s triple negative breast cancer has been quite stubborn. It moved, about a year ago, from her breast to her lungs and has been in there, growing slowly, and shrinking with treatment, on and off since. This stupid cancer has a mind of its own – I swear it does. But, Michelle has been a real warrior going along with treatments and bravely facing all kinds of side effects and damage from chemotherapy. What she thought was a sinus infection and/or side effects from her current chemo treatments was really symptoms (some of them) of metastatic triple negative breast cancer in her brain. We stood behind the doctor Friday morning staring at the scans of her brain that clearly showed spots, seven of them, in her scan. We asked all kinds of questions and wrote down all kinds of information and Michelle was taken back for the fitting of a face mask to protect her face from the full brain radiation she starts tomorrow.

I have been getting offers from our mutual friends, and I know Michelle is getting offers from her other friends, to do things to help her, and thankfully she is allowing us to walk this path with her. This makes me so grateful for the network of survivor friends that we have. Women who are willing to drop anything and GO. Drive, visit, cook, clean, support, hold hands, cry, laugh, and just “be” with Michelle. Watching this type of love and support unfold is truly one of the best blessings I have seen only because of my own breast cancer. Meeting and becoming friends with these women is one of the coolest parts of my life now. I learn something new every single day from these women and they truly inspire me. Had none of us had cancer, we probably wouldn’t know each other, and what a loss that would be.

With that being said, to all of my friends who pray – please pray for Michelle. She needs strength, courage, support, and a full response to this radiation treatment over the next three weeks.

If you know me or know Michelle and can offer more ideas of how we can help her, please let me know. Or if you want to help the group of us out who are happy to help her and looking forward to spending time with her, please contact me. We can always use more help because like I said a few blog posts ago – this my friends, is a relay. I know that if you are able to spend time with Michelle over the next two months (while she is undergoing radiation, scans, and waiting on her new treatment plan)  you will be awfully lucky, because she is truly one special girl.

It IS A Relay

It IS A Relay Says….

10 Jul

It all started when several Lee® Jeans employees realized that each of them, in one form or another, had been touched by breast cancer. An everyday conversation sparked an idea and led to the creation of Lee National Denim Day®, which has become one of the largest single–day fundraisers nationwide for breast cancer.

Isn’t that amazing? Just think of that…a few people just chatting and their initiative created one of the largest single day fundraisers nationwide for breast cancer. Who says one person, or two people, or three people cannot make the world a better place? Who says one person cannot make a big difference? I love this because I always thought I couldn’t raise money, that I wasn’t a strong leader, or that I couldn’t make a difference. When you find your passion – this all becomes second nature….and I promise you – it’s life changing.

It is so easy to get involved with Lee National Denim Day, October 3, 2014, and you too can make a difference…and while you are making a difference you can wear jeans AND raise awareness for breast cancer and raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Lee National Denim Day® teams nationwide will celebrate at their offices, schools and anywhere else they rally their troops to raise awareness and donations for the American Cancer Society®’s programs—guiding us to a world with less breast cancer and more birthdays.

Denim Day® is Among the Most Influential Cause Campaigns  Lee National Denim Day® was ranked one of the Top 10 Most Influential Cause Marketing Campaigns of All Time by the Cause Marketing Forum.

Denim Day Named One of the Most Imaginative Campaigns announced Lee National Denim Day® as one of the most imaginative Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaigns.

Click here to receive the latest news on Denim Day®. This website will continue to be updated as the campaign gets closer.

Promising Triple Negative Breast Cancer Clinical Trial Enters Phase II

9 Jul

Oregon is ranked second highest in the nation for breast cancer incidences with an estimated one in eight women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

While breast cancer remains an unpreventable disease, Legacy Cancer Institute is participating in a promising new clinical trial that could reduce recurrence in breast cancer survivors.

Legacy Cancer Institute’s clinical trial is aimed at preventing recurrence in women who have survived triple negative breast cancer, or who have had lymph node involvement. This clinical trial combines Herceptin, a drug that is used to treat other types of breast cancer, and E75, a peptide-based vaccine aimed at preventing or delaying the recurrence of breast cancer in cancer survivors who achieve remission after surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Legacy Cancer Institute is entering the study in Phase II after results from Phase I showed a 50 percent reduction in recurrence for patients with triple negative breast cancer. Survivors of lymph node positive breast cancer are also eligible to take part in the study. Phase II trials are placebo-controlled studies conducted to determine the effectiveness, side-effects, and potential risks of a new drug that is in development. Phase III trials would follow a much larger group of patients if this trial is successful.

“The number one fear of most survivors is that the cancer could return,” said Nathalie Johnson, M.D., medical director of Legacy Cancer Institute and Principal Investigator of the study. “This study presents new hope and new options for patients diagnosed with these aggressive forms of cancer. The ultimate goal of this line of research is to apply the science of this vaccine to other cancers and eventually one day prevent cancer from occurring in the first place. Vaccines are the next frontier in the fight against cancer and we are thrilled to offer participation in this phase II trial on a promising new treatment to our patients.”

Legacy Cancer Institute was selected as one of 20 hospitals across the United States to take part in the study and the only provider selected in the Pacific Northwest. The study will enroll 300 participants nationwide.

Legacy Cancer Institute is able to catch fast-growing breast cancers such as the triple negative subtype more often in its early stages as every Legacy Breast Health Center is equipped with 3-D mammography. The 3-D technology has been shown to find 27 percent more cancers and reduce false alarms by 15 percent. Legacy was the first to introduce the technology to Portland and is the first and only provider in the region to offer 3-D mammography to every patient, every time, at multiple locations.

As part of being accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), the breast health center at Legacy Good Samaritan meets strict staging and diagnostic quality guidelines. This means physicians assign clinical stage and subtype of the cancer and tailor the treatment for each individual diagnosis, creating better outcomes and eliminating unnecessary treatment for patients. This approach better prepares patients for clinical trials such as the one described above and ensures they are able to qualify.


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