The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Breast Cancer

October 28, 2011

‘We have all survived’: Cessna family copes with multiple diagnoses of breast cancer

CESSNA — When her daughter called last spring, it was bad news that Belva K. Mock hoped she would never receive again.

“Not another one of my daughters,” Mock remembers saying after Melanie McVicker told her she had breast cancer.

The diagnosis is all too familiar in Mock’s family. McVicker is the third of her four daughters to develop the disease.

Their first cousin and an aunt were also breast cancer patients, and Mock’s mother died from the disease in 1976.

Mock herself is a 21-year breast cancer survivor.

Although the history of fighting cancer has had an emotional effect on the family, McVicker believes the heightened awareness has improved her own chance of survival.

“I think I had two mammograms a year since about 1994,” the 52-year-old said at her family’s Cessna-area business, REMM Supply.

McVicker also was put on anti-hormone therapy as a preventive measure.

When she went in for her mammography screening in December, Dr. Gerard Garguilo of Johnstown recommended an addition magnetic resonance imaging test at Laurel Highlands Advance Imaging in Richland Township.

McVicker vividly remembers being called in to Dr. Garguilo’s office at 1111 Franklin St. to hear the MRI results.

“My husband (Rick) came with me to the appointment, which was very unusual,” McVicker said.

The enhanced test showed three areas that were “areas of concern.” MRI-guided biopsies later confirmed cancer in all three areas.

As difficult as it was to hear the news, McVicker dreaded the next step: Informing her family.

“It was hard for me to tell my mother,” McVicker said. “It was hard for me to tell my sisters.”

Because the tumors were not well-defined, Garguilo suggested McVicker have at least one breast removed. She decided to go one step further.

“He did not have clean margins,” McVicker said. “I opted to have a bilateral mastectomy.”

Her husband supported the decision.

“We talked about it and thought the ‘safe play’ would be to take them both,” Rick McVicker said.

The decision may have been aided by Melanie McVicker’s experience with other family members.

“Because of me seeing them go through it successfully, I don’t think it was hard for me,” she said. “We have all survived.”

Her oldest sister is an 11-year survivor and her younger sister is a three-year survivor.

“I am a five-month survivor,” Melanie McVicker said proudly.

Her 84-year-old mother commends her attitude.

“There is always hope,” Mock said at the REMM Supply store. “There has been so much progress in the last 21 years with medicine and treatment.”

Melanie and Rick McVicker credit Garguilo’s expertise and the Laurel Highlands’ technology with catching Melanie’s cancer at an early stage.

“The MRI gave us a good jump on it,” Rick McVicker said.

“They say early detection is key,” Melanie McVicker said.

In addition to inspiring her increased scrutiny, it also prepared her for dealing with the diagnosis.

“My oldest sister and I have talked about it,” Melanie McVicker said. “We figured that many of us and our first cousins would be diagnosed. We have been very diligent about having mammograms and discussing options.”

Melanie McVicker said her outlook is positive and she continues to embrace time with her family. She and her sisters participated in a breast-cancer fundraising walk, bringing in more than $6,000 as a team.

“We are hoping they find a cure and our little sister doesn’t get diagnosed with breast cancer – or our daughters,” Melanie McVicker said.

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