, Salem, MA

October 16, 2012

Former resident talks about her diagnosis, treatment, and the lingering effects

The Salem News

— Now 35, Kelly Miner is only a few months away from being able to say she is cancer-free. Miner was 30 when she was diagnosed with stage 3 infiltrating ductile carcinoma in her left breast. Originally from Olathe, Kan., Miner spent most of her childhood in Buffalo, N.Y., before her family moved to Framingham when she was 11, and later to Danvers when she was 17. She has since lived all over the North Shore until three years ago, when she moved to Pennsylvania for a better job opportunity.

She underwent surgery and chemotherapy at Beverly Hospital.

“Of all the places I’ve lived, I consider the North Shore my home,” she said.

A youth pastor and foster parent, Miner also has a blog, “The Aftermath,” about how her life was affected after cancer.

Tell me about your diagnosis. Did you know something wasn’t quite right?

I felt something. I wouldn’t even call it a lump. It felt more like one of those wiggle worm toys that slip out of your hands. In school they had you feel for lumps the size of a pea. By the time I found mine, it was 5 centimeters wide. I was scared, but hoped for the best. I first knew something was wrong when the ultrasound technician looked at me and told me she was going to call in the doctor. The look in her eyes was one of terror.

What happened after your diagnosis? Did you undergo all of your treatment at Beverly Hospital?

Life was a whirlwind after my diagnosis. I had multiple tests and met many doctors. More people touched my breasts than I could have ever imagined. Appointments were scheduled QUICKLY. I was never given an official prognosis, but I knew it was bad because of how fast my appointments were scheduled. I was in a doctor’s office once or twice a week. I had my chemo and surgery at Beverly Hospital. I had my radiation in Peabody. Beverly Hospital did not have a radiation clinic at the time.

My medical team was the best I could have asked for. People asked me if I’d rather be in Boston and I said, “no way.” The nurses and staff knew me by name, fought for me, and truly cared in every way. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Tell me about your options for treating your cancer. What treatment option did you decide to go with, and how did you come to that decision?

Because I had stage 3 cancer, surgery, chemo, and radiation were all needed to save my life. I had the option of going with a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy depending on how much my tumor shrank after some chemo, but everything I read pointed me toward a mastectomy. There was a brief discussion about harvesting some of my eggs, as I didn’t (and don’t) have any biological children, but my tumor was receptive to estrogen and progesterone and harvesting eggs would have been VERY dangerous.

Where are you now in the treatment process?

I am currently on tamoxifen to block the production of estrogen in my body. I see an oncologist every four to six months. I have regular mammograms, chest x-rays, and visits with my gynecologist.

What has been the hardest part so far, and why?

It’s hard to pick just one. 1: Hearing the shock in the voice and the fear in the eyes of the people I love when I told them I had cancer. How do you tell someone that you might die? 2: Everything that happened after my treatment ended. To the world, you are cured, the cancer is gone, but the reality is that the effects linger and you are never the same.

How have your family and friends supported you?

My family and friends were a huge help during treatment. they provided food, cared for my foster child, sat with me through chemo, and kept me laughing. Laughter was the best medicine by far.

How are you doing now?

I’m hopeful for the future and looking forward to the day when I can officially say I’m “cured.” (Five years after I ended treatment — Feb. 1, 2013.) I still struggle with fatigue, the fear of recurrence, survivor guilt, and more. However, cancer has taught me to live each day to the fullest, as if it were my last. (Cliche, but true.) I am hoping to adopt through the foster care system. I truly love my life.

Is there a particular message you would like to send out to other women reading this?

Age doesn’t matter. Family history doesn’t matter. Know your body and get those regular check-ups no matter how annoying they are or uncomfortable they make you feel.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Don’t think you are doing good just by “going pink.” If you want to truly be aware, read the blog of a cancer patient or survivor, visit a clinic, and research where your dollars actually go.