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Gabrielle Korosec: Paying it Foward After A Breast Cancer Diagnosis
“The big thing is talking about it and helping someone else, it’s all about paying it forward.”
There were a lot of things going on in my life when I first found a lump in my breast. My mother-in-law was in failing health, my two children were teenagers, and I was separating with my husband of 23 years. My life was in chaos; when I found the lump, it further added to that.
How I found the breast lump was a bit hectic, too. One night, I was trying to keep my puppy from running under the bed, so I dove and landed chest first on the floor. It hurt more than it should, so I started feeling around and found the lump (which felt like the size of a grape). My mother had survived breast cancer, and I had always been diligent about getting mammograms. Knowing my family history, I knew I needed to get this checked out right away. The next day, I went to the doctor and they ordered a mammogram and ultrasound. While my mammogram did not reveal anything, the ultrasound showed a mass (which concerned my doctor).
A Bump in the Road
A friend of mine had a good experience at Fox Chase, so I decided to make an appointment for my biopsy there. Soon after my biopsy, I received a diagnosis of what was thought to be at this point Stage I, grade II, infiltrating ductal carcinoma with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common form of breast cancer. On ultrasound, it measured 1.1 cm. At the time, I had so much going on emotionally that I didn’t have time to focus on how I really felt about my diagnosis. When my mother was going through her breast cancer treatment, she never let it slow her down—it was just a bump in the road. I had decided before I ever knew I may have cancer that if I faced the same situation, I would have the same attitude.
The next step was figuring out my surgical options. I wanted to be sure I did not have cancer in the other breast, so I had an MRI done. Luckily, it showed no cancer in my other breast. I had always thought that if faced with a choice, I would opt for a full mastectomy. But, after going through the pros and cons with my surgical oncologist, Dr. Richard Bleicher, I decided against it. He encouraged me to wait a month to go over my options to be sure of my decision. After considering my options, I decided I would have a lumpectomy. Pathology revealed there was not a clean edge during the first lumpectomy, as the size of the tumor was larger than thought on pathology at 2.5 cm, so my tumor was now classified as a Stage II-A. So I had to have a second procedure where they went back in through the same incision to take more tissue to ensure clean margins.
Based off of the pathology results and a number of other factors, it was determined that I would need six weeks of radiation. This went by quickly. My treatments only lasted about 15 minutes, and I saw Dr. Penny Anderson routinely every week for an on-treatment visit throughout the course of my radiation treatments. I didn’t feel tired during my radiation treatment, and I was lucky to still be able to work during that time.
I really leaned on my support system of friends through my cancer journey, and they often came with me to my treatments to offer moral support. My mother taught me to talk about things and not keep it to myself. She would say: “It’s a part of you, so you have to talk about it.”
Paying it Forward
These days, I am feeling great and keeping active. Aside from working as a full-time engineer, I have three dogs and I enjoy being outside playing tennis, golf, and taking my dogs on long walks.
I have limited time to volunteer, but when I learned about Fox Chase’s Patient-to-Patient Network while at a routine check-up, I knew it was a way I could give back. I feel like I can help people going through a cancer journey similar to mine. The big thing is talking through it and helping that person. I feel like I passed my bump in the road, and now it is all about paying it forward.