DARKE COUNTY — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many women, and some men, know the importance of the observance.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States (other than skin cancer). But millions of women are surviving the disease, thanks in part to early detection and improvements in treatment.
Among them are Kathy Magoto of Versailles and Shirley Colvin of Greenville, both of whom have been diagnosed with breast cancer. And like others, each one of them has had some decisions to make.
Kathy Magoto’s diagnosis came in early November 2015.
“I had no symptoms,” said Magoto. “I don’t believe in mammograms but I got one every three years. I wanted to get one at age 39 but they sent me away and told me to wait until I was 40. So, I started getting them at age 42 and now I’m 56. I missed her mammogram last year, which would have been the third year.”
Then one day, Magoto saw where Blue Cross had called her.
“It was probably a reminder [about having a mammogram done],” she said. “The next time, I called back. They informed me I was past due. The caller said, ‘Do us a favor and make an appointment’ and I said yes I would. It was a cute system so I felt I had to get it and set one up for October [last year].”
She opted for the regular mammogram.
“Afterwards, her medical doctor wanted her to come back for a more in-depth mammogram.
“I had dense tissue,” she said. “Some are calcified and others are cancer. They wanted me to come in for magnification.”
Nonetheless, she wasn’t worried.
Magoto said a week or two passed when she got a call one Sunday evening at home from her family doctor.
“He told me I had carcinoma, but I wasn’t worried,” she said. “Maybe my ignorance kept me from worrying. He said it was Stage 1. It was outside the ducts, but mine was bigger than they thought.”
She underwent a lumpectomy on Dec. 21, with the surgeon taking out a couple of lymph nodes, and getting rid of the cancer. She was told the next course of action would be to undergo radiation as a precautionary measure.
“I’m a daily church-goer and I prayed on it,” Magoto said. “I didn’t know what to do. My husband [Steve Monnin] had prostate cancer five years ago. It was in the early stages in his lymph nodes. He had all kinds of options; and he chose radical surgery. I trusted what he wanted to do for him. His decision was good. He’s five years cancer-free. He went through radiation and chemotherapy.”
Magoto said she wasn’t hearing from her doctors.
“I put my life on hold; why weren’t they calling me,” she asked. “So, I called them. They were surprised that no one had contacted me. I was told to come back for radiation. I remember being told that if it recurs, you body can eradicate cancer. I wasn’t worried. The cancer is gone from my surgery. It’s microscopic; it can be eradicated from my body.”
In the meantime, Magoto did her homework and read up on the many types of treatments available, and subsequently opted not to do anything.
“With my breast cancer, I felt they got it in the early stages,” said Magoto, who owns House of Flowers & Gifts in Versailles. “I asked people at church about what I should do and I told them the way I felt.”
And, she read actress Suzanne Somer’s book, “Knockout on Cancer,”
“It was a good resource,” she said. “She had 15 different interviews with doctors who are curing cancer.”
Yes, Magoto took it upon herself to get educated. She tries to her enough sleep, exercise and she takes Vitamins D, C and B.
“I am running every chance I get,” said the 5K runner.
Her job keeps her from some of the Saturday 5Ks, but she has been doing many of them.
She also teaches Yoga three nights a week, in addition to running her shop.
“Every night of the week is spoken for,” she said. “The 5Ks are my practice. Recently, I went three weeks without running.”
Magoto has put herself on a ketosis diet, a low-carb high-fat regime.
“I won’t do radiation unless the next time I get a bigger scare,” she said. “I had surgery that got it all. I opted against it. Monkeying around with hormones is not a good thing. Instead of wearing my body down [with radiation and other treatments, I want to built it up. If it comes back, I’ve got something to fight it with.”
Her advice to other women?
“I think reading and education,” she replied. “You have so many choices. And, trust your doctors. My oncologist is letting me make my own decisions. He’ll give me advice but lets me make my own decisions. I am humble about all of this. I’m not trying to fight the establishment about it.”
She said she has had other women reach out to her right away when they heard the news. Those women were Marcia Davidson, Kelli Berger, Billie Hale, Deb Holthaus, Ann Paulus Pedersen, Linda Wilson, Sharron Sally and Mary Ann Winner.
April 11 was a fateful day for Shirley Colvin, who was dealt a double whammy with the death of her husband and her diagnosis with breast cancer on the same day.
She tried to wake up husband Charlie that morning, but he was unresponsive and she knew he was gone. While he was being prepared by funeral officials to get him out of the home via ambulance, a phone call came into her, letting her know the diagnosis from recent tests.
“I told them, ‘I can’t deal with it,’ that I don’t have cancer and hung up the phone,” Shirley recalled.
Later on, a relative came and called the doctor back and got the answers they needed. Colvin did have breast cancer.
“I had found a lump in early March,” Colvin said. “It was time for a mammogram and I get one every year. I did and after it came back the doctor said, ‘Let’s do a biopsy.’”
After that, surgery was set up, all the while she was grieving and try to get the funeral arrangements made.
“I had to stop and deal with my present living situation,” she said. “I had surgery May 10 with Dr. McKellar, one of the best surgeons around. He did a complete mastectomy [taking off her left breast] and I was okay with that. They couldn’t do an MRI. Because of my kidney problems, they couldn’t run the dye in me.”
According to her, they removed 19 lymph nodes, only one of which was cancerous.
“He [McKellar] knew he got the cancer,” she said. “I then had 12 weeks of chemo, and am still taking Herceptin every three weeks.”
Granddaughter April Vansel said she is Colvin’s “right-hand man.”
“I’ve been on this ride with her,” Vansel said.
“They have one of the best cancer centers here,” Colvin said. “You don’t have to run to Dayton or Richmond. I had my surgery here, too, and my oncologist is in town.”
A lot of church friends and other friends have helped out by taking her to chemo appointments.
“I was very fortunate,” Colvin said. “I did not have any pain. I haven’t gotten sick and had no problems with chemo other than losing my hair. “
“We prepared ahead of time with hats and wigs,” said Vansel.
“It didn’t affect me as much as I thought,” Colvin added. “When someone says cancer, everybody gets scared, but you need to realize there are so many treatments. I chose chemo over radiation, because I didn’t want to go through both. I decided I wanted it done and over with. I didn’t want to have to go back and forth.”
Colvin, who turned 80 on Sept. 26 and grew up in Bradford, said if it weren’t for the Lord, she would have given up.
“She went into this facing front and center,” said Vansel. “She’s been a trooper.”
Vansel herself knows about cancer. The 44-year-old was recently diagnosed with cervical cancer and already underwent surgery [a radical hysterectomy] about a month ago.
“If my 80-year-old grandma can go through cancer and kick butt, I can go through this,” Vansel said.
Colvin said there is no history of breast cancer in the family; however, her father, George Broughman, died of pancreatic cancer, and her mother, Dorothy Broughman, had cancer that had spread throughout her body.
Colvin has no limitations and can do whatever she wants to do whenever she wants to do it.
She does attend a grief share class at Greenville Public Library.
“It helps you deal with grief,” Colvin said. “Some mornings you wake up and are just overwhelmed. That class teaches us how to deal with it.”
Colvin, who attends the First Assembly of God Church, has two daughters, Debra Anderson of Greenville and Sharon Cooper of Galloway and two stepchildren, David Colvin of Washington State and Kathleen Wiebly of Fort Worth as well as 11 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Her advice to women: “If anybody is going through this, Dr. Manish Sheth is amazing. He promised me I wouldn’t get sick but let me know I was going to lose my hair.”
She said her husband’s death was harder on her than the cancer was.
“I know Charlie could not have handled my sickness and all the running I had to do,” she said. “There was nothing he could do.”
Both she and her husband were diabetics, and he was a double amputee.