Survivor Story: Lauren Novotny of Dobbs Ferry

Heather Salerno wrote this profile of Lauren Novotny of Dobbs Ferry for the Sunday Life section on Oct. 16, 2011:

When Lauren Novotny of Dobbs Ferry felt a lump in her right breast in January 2010, she didn’t go to a doctor right away. Only 30 at the time, she waited for several months before looking into it.

“Maybe I didn’t want to face it, or didn’t really think it was anything major,” she says. “And then my friend, Kelly, was diagnosed. That hit home and hit hard.”

Novotny has known her best friend, Kelly Thomas, since they worked at the Chart House in Dobbs Ferry together when she was 18. So when Thomas revealed that she had an aggressive form of breast cancer, Novotny got scared for her friend — and for herself.

Lauren Novotny poses Sept. 6, 2011. She was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2010 at age 31.( Joe Larese / The Journal News )

Lauren Novotny of Dobbs Ferry was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2010 at age 31. She took up meditation to help herself heal. ( Joe Larese / The Journal News )

As it turned out, Novotny’s lump was breast cancer, too, which had spread to her lymph nodes. That launched a whirlwind of treatment that included a double mastectomy and five months of chemotherapy. For her, the side effects of chemo were so bad — dehydration, heart palpitations, rashes and swollen limbs — that she ended up in the hospital twice.

Yet throughout her journey, Novotny has had Thomas to lean on, and vice versa. Each knew exactly what the other was going through: The two even sometimes got chemotherapy on the same day, and then they’d head to Thomas’ apartment in Nyack for what they called “chemo day care.” They’d try on each other’s wigs, watch reality shows and struggle through bouts of nausea and pain together.

“It was really a good experience for something that’s such a horrible experience, to have somebody by your side like that,” she says. “But in turn, I’m very upset that we both had to go through something like this.”

Up next for Novotny is some more reconstructive surgery, and she’s also been debating with her doctor about whether she needs to keep taking a cancer-fighting drug, tamoxifen. But most important, all of her follow-up tests have shown no sign that the cancer has returned. (Thomas is also doing well.) Yet she does wonder if she would have needed surgery or chemotherapy, if the disease had been caught earlier.

“I don’t regret anything, everything happens for a reason,” she says. “But I do suggest, and I’ve told every single one of my girlfriends, if you feel anything…go to the doctor.”

There are plenty of other ways that breast cancer has made an impact on Lauren Novotny. After the jump, 10 more examples of how the disease has changed her life:

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Survivor Story: Kelly Thomas of Nyack

Pete Kramer wrote this profile of Nyack’s Kelly Thomas for the Sunday Life section on Oct. 16, 2011:

Kelly Thomas certainly didn’t expect breast cancer at 31.

“It doesn’t run in my family,” says the 33-year-old Nyack resident. “Some women expect to get it. Their grandmother had it, their mother had it, their aunt had it. I had no knowledge of it. I knew about every other cancer because my father had colon cancer, then the liver, then the lungs. I knew all the other cancers except for breast cancer.”

Still, she knew something dark was in the air in January 2010: It was in the cards.

Kelly Thomas of Nyack, a breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed in her 30s, is photographed Sept. 20, 2011 in the Harrison studio. ( Tania Savayan / The Journal News

(Photo by Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

Thomas, who grew up in Ardsley, does her own tarot-card readings, and she kept seeing a card of foreboding.

“The tower card is like fast, upheavel, destruction, disaster. It could be divorce, it could be death when accompanied with other cards. It’s just always a dark, scary card, and I kept getting it over and over.”

She thought her new relationship was in peril.

It turned out it was her life that was in the balance and that her new boyfriend at the time — who had beaten Hodgkin’s lymphoma years before — would be a godsend, the person who first found the lump in Thomas’ breast and who helped her through her treatment and much of her recovery.

She had both breasts and a lymph node removed and underwent chemotherapy, radiation and reconstructive surgery. The cancer has not recurred in Thomas’ regular follow-up exams.

If Thomas had the tower card and cancer, she also had key people — and a positive perspective — that made it bearable. After the jump, 10 more things about Kelly Thomas’ cancer story that fit that description:

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