Lifestyle

Celebrating survival

"October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Although breast cancer will kill more than 40,000 women in the U.S. this year, a far greater number will live through it. Whidbey General Hospital and the Naval Hospital Oak Harbor join forces this coming Thursday to present Breast Cancer Symposium 2000 in Coupeville. The seminar will focus on early detection, treatments and available resources in hopes of turning more women into breast cancer survivors. Survivors like Blake Kaiser.South Whidbey resident Blake Kaiser had one of those life-changing moments 13 years ago - she found a lump in her breast.Kaiser, who was then living in Virginia, was only 29 years old at the time. Some might have said she was too young for breast cancer. After all, women 50 and over account for 77 percent of breast cancer cases. Women under 30 represent less than 1 percent.On the other hand, Kaiser knew that she definitely felt a lump and also knew there was a history of cancer in her family.It killed my mother and it killed my grandmothers on both sides, she said. Her sisters had both been diagnosed too.Just the same, Kaiser said she shared the concern of many women her age who don't wish to appear as overreacting hypochondriacs rushing off to the doctor at the slightest problem. She also shared more than a little concern about body image. What if it was cancer? What would they have to do? How would it change her?And attitudes, said Kaiser, were different in the late 1980s.For somebody my age (cancer) was very taboo, she said.As a result, Kaiser relied on her background in the mental health field and sought out a therapist rather than the nearest medical clinic. The therapist talked her into making an appointment for the next day.The test results were conclusive. It was cancer.I could clearly see that if I put it off it was going to get worse. It could have been life threatening, said Kaiser who is now in what she calls her 13th year of celebration as a breast cancer survivor. I put the date on the calendar and every year I check it off and say, 'Yes!'Because of her family history Kaiser and her doctors decided she needed to have both breasts removed but because she caught the cancer early, her physical recovery was relatively quick.Being diagnosed with cancer these days is far from a pronouncement of certain death. In fact, the survival rate for breast cancer is more than 90 percent if it's detected early enough said Dr. Nancy Neubauer, a radiologist at Whidbey General Hospital. Neubauer said it's extremely important for women to do self examination, get professional exams and regular mammograms and to take quick action if any problem is found. By putting treatment off, they are only condemning themselves to a more serious situation later, she said.There are a number of people who just don't want to know and other people who think it won't happen to them, said Neubauer, adding that even people who are young, physically fit and otherwise healthy can still be candidates for cancer. Kaiser said the many resources available today to help women with breast cancer weren't there for her just a decade ago.They didn't know what to do with me, she said reflecting on the fact that young women with breast cancer were still thought of as an anomaly. From the get go I was pretty much on my own. That meant she had to find her own sources for help. Some were better than others. She recalled shopping for prosthetics in a dive behind a video store. To get past both the physical and emotional hurdles, Kaiser said she turned to physical activity such as golf and running, as well as her own sense of humor and a strong dose of reality.Early on I made the decision not to worry about it. You can get so consumed by it you can make yourself more vulnerable, she said. I realized I had to get healthy. I had build my body up and be preventative. I'm not careless but I'm not a worrier.Kaiser will tell more of her story during Thursday's Breast Cancer Symposium 2000 at Whidbey General Hospital. She said the options and assistance available to women today are a far cry from the past and women should know that they can have a bright future beyond breast cancer.I don't live like a sick person, she said. I'm very lucky.--------------WHAT: Breast Cancer SeminarWHERE: Whidbey General Hospital, Conference Rooms A & BWHEN: Thursday, Oct. 12, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.Here's a look at the agenda for the Breast Cancer Symposium 2000 to be held next Thursday, Oct. 12, at Whidbey General Hospital.5 p.m. - Registration and review of displays5:45 p.m. - Blake Kaiser, breast cancer survivor6 p.m. - The triad of early detection. Dr. Nancy Neubauer, radiologist, Whidbey General Hospital6:30 p.m. - What happens when you find a lump. Dr. Laurie Mosolino, general surgeon, Naval Hospital7 p.m. - Chemotherapy, radiation and other post-surgery options. Dr. Mark Coughenour, medical oncologist, Whidbey General7:30 p.m. - Break8 p.m. - Hormone replacement/naturopathy alternatives. Dr. John EggersThere will also be displays and experts on:* mammography* Reike* music therapy* nutrition* Reach for Recovery* massage therapy* spirituality* prosthetics* risk factors "

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