Conversation on Breast Cancer with Support Connection

Today at noon, Heather Salerno led a live discussion with Andrea Karl, a counselor with Support Connection in Yorktown, a nonprofit group that offers services for those with breast and ovarian cancer.

Here’s a replay of the chat, which talks about what kinds of services the group offers, and information about how attending a support group can help.

Survivor Story: Theodor “Ted” Brown of Irvington

Heather Salerno wrote this inspiring profile on Theodor “Ted” Brown of Irvington for the Sunday Life section of Oct. 9, 2011:

Breast cancer never crossed the mind of Theodor “Ted” Brown when he pointed out a pimple-sized bump on his right breast during an annual physical.

Even his doctor didn’t think it was serious, though he urged Brown to get it checked out. A biopsy revealed that Brown was indeed in the first stage of the disease, making him a member of an exclusive — and unfortunate — fraternity. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about one in a 1,000, compared to the one in eight women who will be diagnosed at some time in their lives.

The condition is so rare that Brown, a 59-year-old dentist who lives in Irvington, didn’t believe the diagnosis at first. After the biopsy results came back, he paid to have the test redone at three different laboratories.

“I don’t think guys think it’s a possibility,” he says. “It’s really thought of as a woman’s disease.”

Photos by Tania Savayan / The Journal News

In Brown’s case, the disease was caught early, though he did have to undergo a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy. He’s still taking tamoxifen, a cancer-fighting drug, but he’ll celebrate six years of being cancer-free in December.

Brown says that he’s not ashamed to share his story, though some male patients report being too embarrassed to tell others. He wants other men to know that breast cancer is a possibility — and that they should always look into any potential medical problem.

“I could have ignored it, totally ignored it,” he says. “But when (my doctor) said, ‘Maybe you should get it checked out,’ why not? When in doubt, why not? What do you have to lose?”

There are plenty of ways that breast cancer changed Ted Brown’s life.  After the jump, 10 more examples of how the disease affected him.

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Survivor Story: Arnold Roufa of Nyack

Peter D. Kramer wrote this inspiring profile of Arnold Roufa for the Sunday Life section of Oct. 9, 2011:

If you’ve been to Nyack recently, you’ve likely seen Arnold Rou­fa’s panoramic photo of the village adorning the “Welcome to Nyack” banner.

The retired ob/gyn — who goes by the name “Roufa,” not Dr. Roufa or Arnold Roufa — has had three wives and three lives, one of them touched deeply by breast cancer.

First, he was married with children. That marriage ended in divorce.

Then came his marriage to Myrna March, a R&B-pop singer-songwriter whose talent still causes him to speak in hushed tones. For 22 of their 24 years of marriage, March battled cancer, in one breast, then the other, succumbing to lung cancer in 1998.

The next year, Roufa married Arlene Levine, his high-school sweetheart from New Orleans. They live on the Hudson in Nyack, where he pursues a passion that drives his third life: photography.

Here’s the wrinkle, though: In that middle life, 20 years ago — as he watched March battle cancer, Roufa himself was diagnosed with breast cancer, a diagnosis that is extremely rare in men. Fewer than 1 percent of breast-cancer cases each year are in men.

By the time of his 1991 surgery — on stage 1 cancer in his right breast — Roufa had lived with March’s cancer for 17 years.

His surgeon found the cancer after operating on Roufa for gynecomastia, a painful swelling of his breasts that was a side effect of ulcer medication he was taking. The surgery was on a Friday. The following Monday, the surgeon asked Roufa to come to the office.

“I’ll never forget that day,” he recalls. “It was horrible. He told me I had cancer. I was not thinking cancer, although I had been living cancer since 1974 with my wife. It hit me.”

As a gynecologist, Roufa had examined thousands of women, urging his patients to be proactive about breast cancer.

Doctor became patient. He had his right breast removed and chemotherapy.

Being a man with a disease that primarily affects women didn’t affect his ego.

“Men have breasts,” Rou­fa says.

What took its toll was watching March endure years of doctors, diagnoses and more doctors.

There were dark times.

“As Myrna was going through more things, I would take her tranquilizers. I would take my tranquilizers and sneak liquor. To me, it killed the pain. But it didn’t kill the pain of what she was going through.”

There were also laugh-out-loud times.

After her first mastectomy, March insisted on going to a hospital affair, wearing a prosthesis. When a brash man at the bar complimented her breasts, “she took out her prosthesis and threw it at him,” Roufa says with a laugh. “That’s how she was.”

Twenty years later, long retired, Roufa shared 10 things he took away from his battle with cancer. Read them, after the jump.

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Upcoming Stories and Chats in The Journal News This Month

We had enlightening and informative live chat today with Dr. Andrew Ashikari, a surgical oncologist affiliated with the Ashikari Breast Center in the Dobbs Ferry Pavilion of St. John’s Riverside Hospital and the Ashikari Breast Center at Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor. Click here to see a link of the archive of the Q&A.

We’ll be doing two more chats this month:

Oct. 16: Young women and breast cancer: Local women, all diagnosed under age 40, talk about the unique challenges that they faced during their illness.

Oct. 23: What to do — and what not to do — when a loved one gets cancer: Survivors give their best advice on how to help.

We’ll have links to them from this blog and our homepage at LoHud.com. Don’t miss them!

Survivor Story: Geri Moran of Elmsford

Heather Salerno has this story about Geri Moran of Elmsford from Sunday’s Journal News:

Though some might not see having breast cancer as lucky, Elmsford’s Geri Moran, a 23-year survivor, knows exactly how much good fortune she’s had throughout her journey with the illness.

Her luck started when she went to her doctor in 1988 to investigate a shooting pain in her right breast. The doctor was convinced that the cause was a benign cyst, but he insisted that she go for a mammogram just to be sure. He was right about the cyst, but the mammogram also picked up a tiny tumor in the other breast.

“It was in a small space, in a duct, that made it more dangerous,” says Moran, who was a 40-year-old single mother when she was first diagnosed. “By the time I would have felt it, I would have been dead.”

Photos by Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News

Instead, her cancer was detected at Stage 1, early enough that it hadn’t spread. She had a mastectomy to remove the tumor, but she and her oncologist decided that she didn’t need further treatment like chemotherapy, radiation or other cancer-fighting drugs. Since then, she’s needed no additional therapies —nor has she had a recurrence of the disease.

“I always say I’m the luckiest person in the world,” says Moran.

So she found a way to give back, creating small cloth dolls called “Wish and Worry Angels.” They’re designed to bring comfort to those in need — the idea is to let the angel take care of your troubles — and Moran has given away hundreds over the years.

Many have gone to patients seeking help at Support Connection, the Yorktown Heights-based organization that offers services to those with breast and ovarian cancer. (She also sells them at the online marketplace Etsy.com, with a portion of the proceeds going to Support Connection and Operation Smile, a charity that provides free surgeries to children around the world with facial deformities.)

“Every time I sit down and say, ‘I’m not doing these angels anymore, nobody needs them,’ someone calls and says they want one for someone they know that’s sick,” she says.

There are plenty of other ways that breast cancer changed Geri Moran’s life. After the jump, here are 10 more examples of how the disease has impacted her:

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Battling Breast Cancer: Conversation with Dr. Andrew Ashikari

Dr. Andrew Ashikari, a surgical oncologist affiliated with the Ashikari Breast Center at Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt and the Ashikari Breast Center in the Dobbs Ferry Pavilion of St. John’s Riverside Hospital, will discuss some common misconceptions about breast cancer, prevention and treatment today at noon.

Join the conversation via CoverItLive:

<iframe src=”http://www.coveritlive.com/index2.php/option=com_altcaster/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=0bae486a44/height=550/width=470″ scrolling=”no” height=”550px” width=”470px” frameBorder=”0″ allowTransparency=”true” ><a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=0bae486a44″ >Conversation with Dr. Andrew Ashikari</a></iframe>

Breast Cancer Myth Busters: There are lots of misconceptions about breast cancer. Arm yourself with facts

Journal News writer Bill Cary tackles the myths surrounding breast cancer in this week’s Sunday Life cover story as part of our ongoing coverage of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here’s the story as it appeared in print:

Everyone seems to know someone touched by breast cancer. It’s a disease that will be diagnosed in one in eight women during their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society, but it reaches far deeper into families and friendships, as loved ones and acquaintances often come face to face with cancer for the first time.

Along with that awareness, however, comes lots of second-hand information and anecdotes about how best to prevent breast cancer, plus a steady and often contradictory stream of information in the media about the latest advances in medicine and treatments.

Add in the inherent dangers of turning to the Internet for medical advice and you’re bound to get a wealth of sort-of truths and outright misinformation.

To help separate fact from myth, we asked local doctors and breast cancer experts to address 10 myths that are among the most prevalent misconceptions they hear from their patients. Their answers, after the jump.

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Low-Cost Options for Fighting Breast Cancer: Live Chat Archive Here

There are free and low-cost services available locally for breast-cancer screening, treatment and support, and we discussed them today on Facebook with these experts:

Lauren Moore and Pei-Fang Fang, both with the American Cancer Society’s Patient Service Center in White Plains

Pamela Ferrari, of Open Door Family Medical Centers

Katie Shields, a nurse with Cancer Support Team in Mamaroneck, which offers free services to residents of lower Westchester.

After the jump, we’ll post the Q&As, with the helpful information these experts provided over on our facebook page: facebook.com/lohud.

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Free Mammograms in October in Rockland

Good Samaritan Hospital and Nyack Hospital will offer clinical breast exams, mammograms and Pap tests at no cost for uninsured women 40 and over who are New York state residents.

Walk-ins are welcome; to make an appointment at either site, call the Cancer Services Program of the Hudson Valley at 855-277-4482.

Oct. 19, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Good Samaritan Hospital, 255 Lafayette Ave. (Route 59), Suffern. 845-368-5000.

Oct. 22, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nyack Hospital, 160 N. Midland Ave., Nyack. 845-348-2000.