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One Breast Cancer Survivor's Story

10-30-2014

Some people dedicate their lives to serving others, and Carolyn Niemeyer is precisely one of these individuals. If she’s not stocking shelves with food and picking up orders for the BackPack Weekend Food Program, she’s preparing a meal for a friend recently home from the hospital or attending another meeting for one of the many committees on which she resides. Her passion and love for people are what inspires her.

Last July, Carolyn Niemeyer, 71, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Because breast cancer runs in her family, Carolyn routinely performed Breast Self Exams and never forgot to schedule annual mammograms, both of which ultimately helped save her life.

Genetic history, like age and gender, is a risk factor that cannot be changed. According to the American Cancer Society, women with close relatives who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease. A woman’s risk doubles if she has a first-degree female relative (sister, mother, daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer. If two first-degree relatives have been diagnosed, a women’s risk is five times higher than average.

Breast cancer traces back several generations in Carolyn’s family making her a candidate for genetic testing now provided at the CaroMont Cancer Center. Carolyn’s mother died at age 67 with breast cancer and her mother’s sisters were diagnosed with cancer—one with breast and the other with ovarian cancer; both sisters died in their 50s. In April 2013, Carolyn’s younger sister, 67 at the time, also was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“When I received the diagnosis, I was scared and unsure about my future because of my family history,” said Carolyn. “It was very comforting to be able to meet with Dr. Charles Meakin to go over my radiation treatment plan. I was treated with dignity each day that I came for the radiation treatments at the CaroMont Cancer Center. The staff was very concerned about my apprehension and offered advice each step of the way.”

Carolyn completed her treatments and is cancer free today. She will continue to receive annual mammograms and perform self breast exams, two important preventive measures she encourages all women to do to stay ahead of any possible sign of breast cancer.

“Had I waited, I might not have had the same outcome,” she said. “Early diagnosis is the key. I encourage women to be diligent in self breast exams and if you have any doubt, seek medical advice immediately.”

Carolyn says to be alive today is a “saving factor” due to the many progressive treatments that are available and early diagnosis as compared to many years ago.

“Each day I shower and look at my surgical scar, I am reminded of how fortunate I have been to have the surgeon who believed me when I told him I had changes in my breast,” said Carolyn. “I am so grateful to receive excellent treatment and care at CaroMont Cancer Center right here in Gastonia by outstanding physicians and medical professionals who took the time to guide me through this journey.

CaroMont Cancer Center provides a comprehensive continuum of care approach to the treatment of cancer. This includes prevention, early detection, education, treatment, follow up, symptom management and patient survivorship services.

“I have been wearing a pink ribbon every day [in October] as a reminder to others to be aware of the ongoing battle of breast cancer, but more importantly, that I am a survivor!”

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