The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Breast Cancer

October 25, 2013

Survivor: Early detection key to breast cancer battle

JOHNSTOWN — About the beginning of June, Kathy Cunningham felt a lump in one of her breasts while taking a shower.

The Indiana woman, who has been getting annual mammograms for 20 years, was about due for this year’s test, so she made an appointment.

“When I had the mammogram, it showed up,” she said.

Cunningham had a partial mastectomy at Indiana Regional Medical Center on July 3 to remove the cancer detected by the mammogram. The disease has not spread, she said.

To ensure that the cancer does not show up anywhere else, Cunningham is receiving further treatment.

She will receive the last of four chemotherapy treatments soon and then start 36 radiation treatments.

Both the chemotherapy and radiation treatments are being administered at Indiana Cancer Center.

“I’m doing well now,” she said.

Her three physicians are Dr. Mark Boykiw, a surgeon at Indiana Regional Medical Center; Dr. Gopala A. Ramineni, a medical oncologist at Indiana Cancer Center; and Dr. Ali Murad Tunio, a radiation oncologist at Indiana Cancer Center.

All three have been excellent, she said.

“I think they are very conscientious about their patients,” she said. “I just think they are knowledgeable. They know how to get us the care that we need.”

Cunningham, who retired as she had planned from her position as clinical director at Indiana Ambulatory Surgical Associates around the same time she was diagnosed, has been able to help at the office when needed.

“It’s going OK,” she said about her battle against the disease. “There are different challenges.”

Chemotherapy causes your hair to fall out, but there is plenty of support to overcome that side effect, she said.

The women’s health center in the mammogram department at Indiana Regional Medical Center was able to provide her with a wig, she said.

“It makes you feel better,” she said about having hair. “If you see me at the store, I look fine.”

Without a wig, people would know that something was wrong, she said.

The women’s help center was great, she said.

“They help women to keep their self-esteem and get on the right track,” she said.

She said her family and members of her church, Resurrection Roman Catholic Church, Clymer, and her fellow employees have been supportive.

“It’s good to have all those people to get you through it,” she said.

The greatest of all the support, however, came from God, she said.

“You couldn’t get through it without him,” she said.

Cunningham said the best way to combat breast cancer is to do self-breast examinations and get annual mammograms.

“Don’t put it off,” she said. “Early detection is the most important thing.”

Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FrankNews10.

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