Battling Bruin: Cathy

Posted December 2013

In the spring of 2011, Cathy was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer; she had invasive lobular carcinoma in her left breast and her tumor was 4 centimeters. The diagnosis came as a shock to Cathy and her entire family, and immediately she needed to start exploring treatment options – surgery being one. Cathy had several surgical possibilities including a lumpectomy or a single mastectomy; however, because of the high risk of recurrence in the non-effected breast, Cathy chose to have a bilateral mastectomy. She had both breasts surgically removed on June 27, 2011.

Days prior to her surgery, Cathy’s family and friends gathered for a party at her home and surprised her by having shirts made in support of her. They read “Team Cathy, United We Stand”. She had a huge support system behind her. They were part of the reason Cathy was able to stay so strong and positive throughout her battle with cancer. In fact, after her first surgery, her doctor went to the waiting room to look for Cathy’s family and asked, “Who is here for Cathy,” nearly 30 people responded!

One major concern for Cathy and her friends and family was the risk of her having to undergo chemotherapy or radiation. Luckily, her oncologist had started out as a research scientist focusing on clinical research and was able to introduce her to more current technology with Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay. This test examined 21 different genes in the pathology of her tissue and determined the need for chemotherapy as well as the probability of recurrence. Cathy attests that one of the positive outcomes of her surgery was the knowledge of the Oncotype DX technology. It was determined through these tests that she would not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation; however, she would still have 2 more surgeries for her breast reconstruction.

Cathy had her second surgery on Sept. 28, 2011 to begin her reconstruction. During this operation, tissue expanders were placed in her chest, and each week after that, doctors added small amounts of fluid to stretch her tissue and skin. Just a week after this surgery, the Spirit Squad at Mt. San Antonio College participated in a Breast Cancer Walk in her name and raised money for the cause. Even though she was still recovering from surgery, Cathy completed the walk with the squad. She crossed the finish line with blood drains still attached to her from surgery.

Finally, Cathy had her last surgery on April 20, 2012 to finalize her breast reconstruction. On that day, two great things happened: her reconstruction was complete and most importantly, her surgery went perfectly. Another piece of good news that day came from her granddaughter while they were sitting together after returning home from the hospital. Cathy’s oldest granddaughter, Kayley, found out that she was accepted to UCLA. Two weeks later, she made the UCLA Cheer Squad. Even before that, Cathy was one of the UCLA Spirit Squad’s biggest supporters. Because her brother attended UCLA, and her son, Kyle, was a cheerleader at UCLA and is now the head cheerleading coach, Cathy has been a Bruin fan for years! For the past two years, she has been providing food for the entire Spirit Squad to eat during the half time of every home game at the Rose Bowl. Her famous chicken wraps are sought after every game!

Cathy’s generosity extends even farther than the Spirit Squad. She constantly invites people into her home and into her family; cooking for them and making them feel welcome. Despite her battle with cancer, she always put others before herself and felt that cooking was always a therapy for her. Another thing helping Cathy with her own battle was helping others through theirs. After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, many women who worked with Cathy got mammograms themselves. Between the two offices that she once managed, an astounding eight women found tumors in their breasts and had to undergo treatment for breast cancer. Thankfully, Cathy has been there to counsel all of them through it. She has given an abundance of advice on what to expect and what questions to ask your doctor. In fact, she suggested the Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay to all of them and it saved all but one of her friends from having to undergo chemotherapy.

Cathy has chosen to be a part of the clinical study herself as a strong proponent of the Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay and how clinical research leading to it is vital to saving cancer patients from the pain and sickness that comes with chemotherapy. This study will examine whether taking a diabetes medication, Metformin, will lessen the chance of recurrence in breast cancer patients. Her selflessness carries through even farther in her desire to improve medicine for others.

The UCLA Spirit Squad, as well as Cathy’s friends and family, are eternally grateful for her support and generosity. Her battle with cancer proved how incredibly strong she is and that strength carries through to each person that she meets. Everyone that comes into contact with Cathy is absolutely affected by her infectious personality, and she is undoubtedly looked up to by countless amounts of people. She is not only a Bruin fan, but she is a True Bruin herself.

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