Kathy Silke-Connell describes it as the five minutes that saved her life. While doing a routine self breast examination in the shower, she felt a lump.
In June 2003, the Coral Springs mother of two was diagnosed with Stage 1 invasive breast cancer. She was 38 years old and had no knowledge of any family history of breast cancer.
"To say that the rug was pulled out from under me is an understatement," said Silke-Connell, who worried about her two young daughters, Megan and Marisa, and husband, Ken.
Silke-Connell underwent treatment at Broward Health Coral Springs Women's Diagnostic and Wellness Center. Radiology technicians helped ease her fears, and Bernard Zaragoza, M.D., the surgeon scheduled to perform her lumpectomy, gave her the words of encouragement she needed to go from a frightened bystander to a fighter.
"He put his arm around me and assured me I had done everything right – educating myself, getting tested and not waiting,” said Silke-Connell. “He said that my attitude would determine 90 percent of my outcome and that he knew I would get through this, but that I needed to help him in the process. His voice was stern, but soothing and calming, and he was straightforward. His words struck me and I believed it 100 percent.”
Fifteen years after her surgery, Silke-Connell remains cancer-free and continues to visit the Broward Health Coral Springs Women's Diagnostic and Wellness Center to have her annual mammogram.
Since her cancer battle, several family members, including her mother, have also been diagnosed. Silke-Connell is now researching her family history and undergoing genetic testing.
“It’s better to know before time and address the issue head on,” Silke-Connell said. “It only takes a simple lab test to give you a full map that can help you prevent diseases and not be caught off guard.”
If you have a family history of breast cancer, ask about testing for the BRCA gene. Call (954) 759-7500 or visit www.browardhealth.org/appointment to schedule an appointment.
Broward Health Women's Services