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Feeling thankful after two bouts with cancer

Genetic testing led to proactive healthcare.

After a routine mammogram found a lump in her breast, Kathy Lahr of Milton, Pa., was planning to undergo a lumpectomy and radiation. But a presurgical MRI turned up a second tumor. Because a genetic predisposition for breast cancer runs in her family, she underwent genetic testing.

Genetic testing discovers BRCA gene mutation

The BRCA gene mutation elevates the risk for breast and ovarian cancer. When Ms. Lahr learned she had this gene mutation, she decided to undergo a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Not long after that, an ovarian cancer diagnosis meant she also needed a hysterectomy.

It was a lot to handle just a few years after the 71-year-old relocated from Georgia to central Pennsylvania with her husband Bernie. But she kept her spirits up.

“I just feel good about it. I feel that they did everything they could do to keep me alive and going,” Ms. Lahr says. “They gave me my life. They gave me peace. They gave me confidence in myself that I'm strong enough.”

Breast cancer care close to home

Her breast cancer care took place at Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg. Geisinger plastic surgeon Christian Kauffman, MD, teamed up with Evangelical for breast reconstruction after mastectomy. 

Ms. Lahr has high praise for Dr. Kauffman, as well as for Geisinger gynecological oncologist Scott Purinton, MD, PhD, who treated her ovarian cancer — and all the staff members who worked with them.

And she’s grateful she didn’t have to travel for her care. “I could’ve gone anywhere in the United States to be treated,” she says. “I’m 20 minutes from Geisinger and I had the best possible experience.”

She and Bernie have been together since high school and celebrated their 50th anniversary last year. They’ve enjoyed boating, fishing and motorcycle riding together. He’s been her rock through her medical journey.

“He’s been a great husband. These four years have been a trial with health issues that we never imagined. He's been there every step of the way,” she says.

These days, Ms. Lahr puts her energy into raising awareness.

“I cannot say enough. I'll talk to anybody in the grocery store, on the street,” she says. “Be proactive, know a little bit of your family history. If there's something hanging out there, like the BRCA, get the test and get to a good gynecological oncologist.”

Next steps:

Read and watch more stories
Learn about plastic and reconstructive surgery at Geisinger
Meet Meet Christian Kauffman, MD
Meet Meet Scott Purinton, MD

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