News-Sun photo by ROMONA WASHINGTON Julie Boylan (from left), daughter Jennifer Wickham, twin sister Judy Wells, Judy's daughter Ronelle Regensburger and another of Julie's daughters, Michelle Boylan came out in force Saturday evening to support each other and other breast cancer victims and survivors. Jennifer, a nurse, is the only one of these five ladies who has not tested positive for BRCA, the breast cancer gene.
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published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Pink Army Strut draws 300 'soldiers'
By ROMONA WASHINGTON
SEBRING - The parking lot at Island View Restaurant was a sea of pink - pink T-shirts, pink wings, pink dresses, pink shoes, pink hats, pink purses - you name it, and it was pink. Boas were worn by some as a sign of survival.
Florida Hospital Heartland Division's Pink Army Strut was sold out to 300 foot soldiers long before Saturday's event. Women of all ages gathered to show their support in finding an end to breast cancer. Some of the women had just recently been diagnosed; some had just celebrated a birthday as a survivor.
Some of the women came alone; others came with a friend. Even some men came out to show their support.
One group participated as a family - all touched by the cancer.
Judy Wells and her twin sister Julie Boylan's little sister April was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.
For the next year the family was on the go between surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, all in support of April. Then, 13 months later Judy was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Judy's daughter, Ronelle Regensburger, recalls that on the day of the diagnosis a genetic counselor from a breast center in Kentucky walked into the room and said her mom would be taken care of, but they were just as concerned about preventing cancer in her. Further testing was scheduled.
Judy tested positive for BRCA2, which gave her the option to have a bilateral mastectomy instead of just the effected breast.
Ronelle also tested positive, which gave her a 90 percent risk of breast cancer by 60.
Because of the two positive results, it was suggested that all of the women in the family be tested for BRCA, the breast cancer susceptibility gene in which harmful mutations can increase a person's risk of developing cancer.
Judy and Julie's sister, Dalene, also tested positive and, according to Regensburger, "opted for preventative bilateral mastectomy as well as a short spell of treated throat cancer treated with surgery alone."
April also tested positive and chose to have her second breast removed.
Julie's four daughters tested - two positive, including Michelle Boylan, and two negative, including Jennifer Wickham, the nurse in the family.
Judy underwent a preventative mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in 2005.
Ronelle also opted for a preventative bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in 2008.
Sadly, April lost her fight against cancer in December. She was 48 and is survived by two sons.
Julie's cancer showed up in her thyroid, but she has also undergone preventative surgery.
Julie, who knits caps to give to her doctor for his patients, said the cancer was traced back to their grandfather.
"We wondered about where it came from. When our grandfather died, he had a lump on his breast. Come to find out, it was cancer," Judy said, reminding everyone that breast cancer is not gender specific for women. As soon as the sons of these women are old enough to understand, they too will undergo the BRCA test.
According to Ronelle, of those who carry a harmful mutation of the gene, 88 percent are at risk to develop breast cancer, 11 percent are at risk to develop ovarian cancer and 7 percent, like Julie, are at risk to develop thyroid cancer.
While the test reveals the possibility of cancer, it is not one that is often covered by insurance companies.
"Don't wait for this to affect someone. If you know of someone in your family who has or has had breast cancer, get tested.
" If you're diagnosed, stay strong. It doesn't mean it's a death sentence," Judy said.
In her Pink Army testament, Ronelle said, "Survivor, Courage, Faith, Hope and Cure, that's who we are. Breast cancer affects anyone, race, age, color, sex. It's a disease that does not discriminate. Early detection is your best chance to a cure. Get tested. If there's a history, get the genetic testing done. The worst it can do is save your life. ... expect to see us at every breast cancer event to spread the word of not only awareness, but the importance of family and even greater 'faith in the Lord above.'."
By the way, Judy, Julie and their daughters all wore the words Survivor, Courage, Faith, Hope and Cure on sashs as they participated in Saturday's Pink Army Strut.
Pinkarmy Strut (by: Julie Boylan - 10/25/2012)
Well written! Thank you for sharing our story! It is our hope that what we experienced will save someone and help others to understand the BRCA gene.
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