Kim Hagerich - Patient Story

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"As soon as I went to Fox Chase, I didn’t have to look anywhere else."

— Kim Hagerich, Breast Patient

Moving halfway across the country with two small children can be stressful, but when we moved for my husband’s new job in 2005, I took it in stride. My husband Todd and I settled into a friendly family-oriented neighborhood in a northern Philadelphia suburb.

I quickly made many friends by getting involved in a book club, mother’s group, and my children’s preschool. Todd and I wanted a third child, and based on my fertility history, I began taking progesterone (a hormone connected to pregnancy). Not soon after, I found a lump in my breast.

My doctor brushed it off because I was only 36, because I had no knowledge of family history of breast cancer, and because cancer usually doesn’t present with pain. I took my doctor’s advice and waited.

Coincidentally, Todd, who worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb, attended a breast cancer educational seminar at work. He learned that progesterone actually can feed a tumor and that if my lump was in fact cancer, the drug was helping the cancer to grow.

My mammography results were shocking. I had multiple tumors in my breast and in my lymph nodes. As someone new to the area, I wasn’t sure where to go for treatment.

My husband asked for a referral from the president of oncology at Bristol-Myers Squibb. He suggested I see Lori Goldstein, MD, FASCO, at Fox Chase Cancer Center. As soon as I met Dr. Goldstein and the other members of her team, I knew I was in good hands at Fox Chase. I didn’t have to look anywhere else.

In November 2005, I underwent a single mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at Fox Chase. After a quick recovery, I began an aggressive course of chemotherapy, which was successful. Because the cancer spread to my lymph nodes, I then underwent radiation therapy.

I’m so thankful we ended up in Pennsylvania. Our kind neighbors and friends showed their support by preparing meals, decorating our house for the holidays, and helping to care for my children. Fox Chase is the other reason I’m happy we came to Pennsylvania. I feel blessed to have such fantastic doctors and nurses treating me. Everyone at Fox Chase is friendly and helpful.

When my mother came to an appointment with me, she was amazed to see Dr. Goldstein reach out to hold my hand and give me a hug. She’d never seen that warmth and compassion from a doctor. I successfully finished treatment by the fall of 2007.

After attending several breast cancer support groups, I realized my issues were very different than those of the other women. It was a factor of my age. While they were concerned about seeing their grandchildren grow up, I was worried that I would miss my daughter’s first day of kindergarten. I wanted to create a place where young women with breast cancer could meet, trade ideas, and discuss pertinent issues in their lives. My friend Stacy and I did that.

We started a local chapter of Young Survival Coalition, an international nonprofit network of breast cancer survivors and supporters dedicated to the concerns and issues that are unique to young women and breast cancer. Our group has more than 80 members and meets monthly at various locations in the Philadelphia area. We’ve also started to reach out to college-age women at health fairs.

This is a whole new and exciting part of my life. Last year, I completed the breast cancer three-day walk. I also participated as a “researcher for a day” at Fox Chase Cancer Center. After that, I represented the Linda Creed Foundation in Washington to lobby for funding for breast cancer research. In the fall of 2009, I started a part-time job working for the Linda Creed Foundation.

After going through treatment, I was surprised to learn I did in fact have a family history of breast cancer. I lost two great aunts to breast cancer, but because that generation didn’t talk about cancer, I never knew how they died. Another great aunt and cousin were diagnosed after I was.

I recently underwent genetic testing through the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment Program at Fox Chase. Fortunately, I don’t carry the BRCA gene, which would have increased the risk for cancer for me and my daughters.

I’m grateful to Todd and my team of doctors at Fox Chase. The thought of missing out on being a mom was more devastating than dealing with cancer. I still cry every time I help out in my daughter’s kindergarten class. Before breast cancer, I wasn’t looking forward to turning 40. Now that I’m almost there, I can’t wait. I feel so fortunate to be alive and well.

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