Our Survivor this month is Kaprisha Vallecillo, a beautiful and talented young woman, age 27 and already a two year breast cancer survivor. You experience Kaprisha’s sweet spirit the moment she enters the room. She has a beautiful daughter born on May 30, 2006, Kaprisha was diagnosed in May of 2009. Her daughter was at that time approaching her 3rd birthday. Kaprisha was diagnosed at age 25, one (1) day after graduating from law school. Her diagnosis was Lobular Carcinoma In situ, (LCIS), Estrogen, Progesterone positive receptors, Stage 1. Kaprisha had a lumpectomy to remove the lump and then 6 weeks of radiation. She did not receive chemotherapy. Her oncologist, Dr. Garcia and her surgeon, Dr. Silberman are both on staff at USC Norris.
I sat with Kaprisha and asked how she found out she needed to seek medical attention. After all, she was only 25 years old, going to law school and the last thing on a young woman’s mind would be getting a breast exam. She responded that “I love my boobies” came on campus and in support of the organization, she went for an exam. When the lump was felt, she went to a nurse practitioner who sent her away, saying that Kaprisha was too young. [A case for always taking charge of our own health and bodies]. She shared with her husband and he too noticed the lump, so Kaprisha went back, this time to a physician who ordered an ultrasound. The lump was not detectable in the mammogram. [Many of us have similar stories, so if you suspect something, insist upon further testing].
Kaprisha, was a perfect candidate for a clinical trial. She is receiving 4-5 years of hormone therapy, recommended by her oncologist. She considers the clinical trial a blessing because it covers all of her medical costs. She is so grateful to the staff at USC for caring for her and is very involved with their Breast Cancer campaign.
I mentioned earlier that her diagnosis came one (1) day after graduation. That means there was still the bar exam to take before officially becoming an attorney. USC stepped in and told her “No, we want you to focus on your health, not on the bar exam”. She tried to insist that she was okay and the response was “your health is more important to us, you can always take the bar, you can’t take back your life if you don’t care for yourself now”. USC has been one of her staunchest supporters ever since.
After completion of treatment and a little rest time, Kaprisha took her bars, passed and now operates her law office out of Pasadena, CA (225 North Lake, Suite 300, phone number 626.344.0257 Her web site is www.KCVLaw.com. She has a powerful message “Tell and Get Well”. She wants to empower women by sharing the message, 1 friend at a time. She expresses that life after diagnosis does not have to be dismal – we can survive and thrive. She also says it’s okay to say No, it’s okay to slow down. She doesn’t believe that Breast Cancer is the best thing to happen to you, as she’s heard others say. She does believe that after being diagnosed, the best thing is to share your experience to help someone else. She shares her story as an ambassador through Susan G. Komen. www.komenlacounty.org
Every Friday is family day. Kaprisha and her husband are teaching their daughter the important lessons of life and having a relationship with God. They have game night and play games that enhance their teaching while providing fun for the entire family. I’ve been in her presence on several occasions and like her name (maintaining privacy) she is full of spirit, life and laughter, just like her mother.
Kaprisha is an inspiration for many young women and I hope that the Sassy Readers will share her story with all of the women you know, particularly young women under the age of 40.
Greetings Sassy Survivor readers, I greet you this month with unspeakable joy in my heart and soul. I pray that 2011 has sparked new resolve to be the best we can be. I’ve deemed this to be a year of Divine Favor, Blessings and Breakthrough. February in particular represents a month of special events and celebrations. Most people view February as the Love Month and certainly we celebrate Black History Month. I have reason to add two additional celebrations to the Month of February. First, I was born on February 9th; those who have known me understand how important my birthday is to me. Even more important, I celebrate 10 years of being cancer free on February 12, 2011! God has been so amazingly awesome to me over these past 10 years.
I’ve been encouraged to share my story on this website; therefore, I’ve chosen my anniversary month, February, to share just a small portion of my resolve at time of diagnosis. It was (ten) 10 years ago, the last week of January, 2001, when I received that phone call no woman wants to hear “your tests are positive, you have breast cancer”. Whew! Norman was just backing out of my driveway and I stopped him to tell him the news. Of course, he was speechless. I just responded to his silence by saying “Okay, I’ll see you later” and walked back into the house. I proceeded to my restroom where I looked in the mirror and said to myself, “I have breast cancer”. Then I spoke to the Lord and said “Lord, give me 60 seconds to cry” which I did and then after only 60 seconds, I once again spoke to the Lord and said “Okay, Lord, Let’s Go Fight”. Today, I fight not only for myself but for each of you as well, men and women alike. It was on my birthday, February 09, 2001, that I sat in St. Jude’s Hospital in Fullerton, CA to have my pre-op work done. Three days later, February 12, 2001, I had a lumpectomy and four (4) lymph nodes removed. The Lord was there at that hospital as He always is in my life. That morning, on February 12th, Norman dropped me off at 8:00 AM and said he’d be back before my surgery which was scheduled for 4:00 PM. While sitting and reading, I was prompted to go and meet my Radiation Oncologist (normally not done until after surgery). As God would have it, the doctor was free and wanted to examine me before my surgery as he’d not met me before. He found 2 additional lumps, hidden by the larger lump, stacked up like airplanes on the runway! If it wasn’t for the Grace of God! At 4:00PM, I had surgery, all three lumps removed. I began 5 ½ months of aggressive chemotherapy barely 3 weeks later, followed by 6 weeks of daily radiation. I’ve had my challenges but God has prevailed as the healer. He gave me an amazing female oncologist who understood the physiology of African American women, a top notch surgeon, incredible medical support and most importantly a loving and caring family. I cry when I think of how my 12 year old son stepped in to cook and care for me, my daughter who flew in from New Jersey to make me beautiful and my husband, frightened himself, but never letting it show. Today I wholeheartedly rejoice that God has blessed and favored me with another birthday and another year as a “Survivor”.
Enough about me. This month, I want you to meet the beautiful Kaprisha Vallecillo, our youngest survivor to date. Kaprisha is a 2 year survivor and she is 27 years old. Enjoy her story. I will do a follow up story on triple-negative in the coming months as I gather more information directly from the doctors who are making strides in the treatment and research of this very aggressive breast cancer. Included in this month’s edition is information on a study that finds Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Outcomes and information on African American women deficient in Vitamin D. My own doctor has increased my Vitamin D through supplements.
Don’t forget to: REGISTER FOR “RACE FOR THE CURE” at www.Komenlacounty.org; join TEAM SASSY SURVIVOR. CONTACT ME IF YOU NEED HELP REGISTERING OR NEED MORE INFORMATION. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkWaWFDOEGk “God gives us gifts in different packages, some in the form of people”, I treasure my gifts (you) everyday”.
God Bless you and thank you for being a Sassy Reader.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer Part I
Surviving Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Posted by Guest Blogger (profiled on Tavis Smiley pbs.org), September 30, 2010 9:03 AM (Excerpt from www.TripleStepForTheCure.org)
BY LOUISA GLOGER
*Note: Louisa is the co-founder of Triple Step For the Cure”. Be sure to visit their website above.
I didn’t expect to get this disease. Although my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her thirties, I felt that I had mitigated my risk by following the general guidelines for risk reduction. Babies before thirty, check. Breastfeeding, check. Organic food, check. But it happened, and at the age of 31, with my two small children in my arms, I found myself standing in a shower with my hand against my breast, listening to the alarm bells sounding in my head. I knew something was not right, and sure enough, after a multitude of tests and the weary looks and invasive pokes of many doctors, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. When I was given the diagnosis of triple negative, I was confused and dismayed.
What is Triple Negative Breast Cancer?
Triple negative cancers are more frequent in women of color: Black women, Caribbean-American women and Hispanic women. Very much like other breast cancers, studies suggest that there is an association between higher BMI (body mass index –being overweight) and Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Triple negative breast cancer is often found in younger women (under the age of 40 actually).
It is now commonly understood that breast cancer is not one form of cancer, but many different “subtypes” of cancer. These subtypes of breast cancer are generally diagnosed based upon the presence, or lack of, three “receptors” known to fuel most breast cancers: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Triple Negative Breast Cancer earned its name because of the lack of these receptors (estrogen, progesterone and HER2). The most successful and traditional treatments for breast cancer target these receptors which are not present in Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Though the receptors are not found, Triple Negative Breast Cancer has fortunately shown to be responsive to a drug called Cisplatin which is a chemotherapy drug. Used in a study of women in Israel who were BRCA carriers; nine out of ten tumors – completely disappeared with Cisplatin. The study is ongoing. Depending on the stage of its diagnosis, triple negative breast cancer can be particularly aggressive, and more likely to recur than other subtypes of breast cancer.
Examining screening modalities, it is clear that the digital mammography methodology is superior in detecting Triple Negative Breast Cancer. It is encouraged to have a digital mammography, particularly if a younger woman has dense breasts or there is a family history. Other appropriate screening modalities are the breast ultrasound and breast MRI.
Where to go for more information: In addition to Triple Step For the Cure: visit Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation www.TNBCFoundation.org and visit www.lbbc.org.
FEATURED SASSY SURVIVOR
LOVER OF GOD, LOVER OF LIFE
80 YEARS YOUNG AND 3X SURVIVOR OF BREAST CANCER
What a treat it was to sit down with Mother Duchess to listen to her story, her Love of and Faith in God as she survived Breast Cancer, not once, not twice but three times.
Mother Duchess is Native American and African. She proudly celebrates both heritages. I said, “Mother Duchess, this is Native American month” and she proudly said “I know”. She is also proud of her 80 years which she celebrates each February. Mother Duchess, doesn’t celebrate merely on her birthday, which is February 2nd, she celebrates the entire month.
Mother Duchess’ first bout with Breast Cancer was in 1970 when she was living in Brookline, Massachusetts. She was a single parent and the diagnosis of breast cancer was very frightening. She said “I was very afraid, because both my mother and grandmother had died of cancer.” Her mother had passed as a result of breast and lung cancer; her grandmother breast cancer. She knew of the Lord at that time but had not yet developed a personal relationship with him. Yet, she had family and friends who supported her during the time, helping with her care and with her daughter.
In 1976, Mother Duchess and her daughter, drove cross country to California. The drive into the San Gabriel Mountains, though beautiful, brought its own set of challenges but she persevered. While in California, she established a successful business and also joined the Human Relations Commission in Los Angeles. She was the last of Mayor Tom Bradley’s appointees. She also received a commendation, deemed Advisor Emeritus P.M. Hunter-Roberts (Duchess), the last civil act of Rabbi Allen Freehling, Executive Direction of the Human Relations Committee.
Then, in 2001 Breast Cancer struck again. She was then a member of West Angeles Church of God In Christ. She went to Bishop Charles E. Blake, her pastor, who said “pray for a miracle”. He held her head in his hands, prayed and Mother Duchess said a weight just dropped off of her and she has never worried again. Rather, she began studying miracles and praying for miracles. Mother Duchess’ belief is “If it’s in the book, that’s it”. Her belief in the Lord, her belief in miracles got her through once again in 2007, the third bout with breast cancer. The radiation has left some tingling and numbness in her fingers but no other side effects. Her oncologist, Dr. Christi Funk of Cedars Sinai, too has faith and has cared for Mother Duchess as her own daughter. Mother Duchess is thankful that God has brought everything to a point where there are so many tools and medical personnel that everyone can receive care if pointed in the right direction. Mother Duchess simply states “One thing I know, I have constantly been under the care of Christ”.
Mother Duchess also praises her daughter, a Deaconess, Ministry Assistant and Instructor, as well as her son-in-law, an Elder at West Angeles Church of God In Christ, for loving and caring for her. Mother Duchess is a beautiful woman of God, a mother to all of us who know and love her. She is an inspiration for anyone facing a challenge. Her motto, “I always pray for miracles”. The following is a poem Mother Duchess wrote when facing one of her challenges:
What Is, Is
Last night I broke down and tears flowed as I became aware
I was on hallowed ground. Oh! Thank you Father for this great discerning
Of being able to enjoy all that I am learning
How Great Thou Art
All I have to do
Is do my part
Live in the moment, with full attention
God’s name is all, and all I have to mention
Mind, Soul & Body bursts in Thanksgiving
Thank you Father for this life I am living
There’s a flicker within me
At times it burns so bright
I’m beginning to realize
From whence cometh the Light
I now surrender and can no longer fight
My spirit is absorbed by God’s Love and Divine Precious Light
God is What is
and Jesus is the truth and He says “I am the way”
“Written by Mother Duchess”
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone
DeBorrah D. Carter, Sassy Survivor
This first issue of SassySurvivor.com is dedicated to our friend, Alaina Reed Hall who showed us all how to be gracious in the face of adversity. Alaina passed in December 2009 from Breast Cancer. Most people remember Alaina as Rose in 227 or her stint on Sesame Street. At Women’s Discipleship Group, we remember her as our friend who cooked fabulously, loved unselfishly and kept her eyes and heart focused on The Lord. You are in my heart Alaina as I launch this online awareness resource for women of color.
In this photo: Lunch at Scarlets Tea Room in Pasadena. Alaina Reed Hall with Black Hat, sitting between renown author, Deborah Peques (in red), Tegra Little, entrepreneur and author of Raw Living and Janet Bailey, philanthropist and co-founder of Women’s Discipleship Group (far end).