Milestones: Celebrating the Joys of Life After Cancer
- Actress Joanna Kerns, 70, was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer. Despite not having a family history of cancer, she underwent a lumpectomy and a double mastectomy (removal of both breasts) to reduce her cancer risk.
- A prophylactic, or preventative, mastectomy is an operation where the breast tissue is removed to prevent cancer from developing in the future. While some women who carry the BRCA gene mutation or have a family history of cancer are at higher risk and consider this procedure, the option exists for women facing the risk of breast cancer.
- Reaching milestones during or after a cancer battle is a big deal. Milestones may include things like getting engaged or reaching another birthday, except they may mean even more than they did previously. Hence, it’s important to take them all in and celebrate all you’ve overcome.
“Growing Pains” star Joanna Kerns, 70, is celebrating life’s milestones, which tend to mean even more after surviving breast cancer, say some women. The beloved actress’ only daughter turned 45, and the two are incredibly close. Kerns considers herself lucky to have her at this point in her life and celebrated the occasion on social media.
“Sometimes in life, you get lucky. I’m one of those people because I have a daughter like Ash,” Kerns wrote in an Instagram post.
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“Happy 45th Birthday, Ash. What a year you’ve had! I’m so proud of you. You are an incredible friend and daughter. Like I said, I’m lucky. Love you so much,” Kerns added to the heartfelt tribute video honoring her daughter.
The collection of photos shows the mother-daughter duo together in numerous settings filled with laughter and smiles. They shared photos with loved ones, friends, and even their adorable dog for a funny New Year’s photo.
Supportive fans chimed, wishing Ashley birthday wishes.
“Great photos!! Proud mother,” Instagram user Chris Brundage wrote.
“Omg, that video is soooo good!!! Happy birthday Ash,” Instagram user Brandon Mastrippolito wrote.
Helping You Better Understand Mastectomy Options
Milestones After Cancer
For cancer warriors and their families, reaching life’s milestones is a big deal. Milestones can be the birth of a child or grandchild, getting married, traveling on a dream vacation, reaching another birthday, or something else. Most importantly, these milestones during or after a cancer battle tend to have a more significant meaning because, often, cancer patients gain a greater sense of gratitude toward their lives.
According to Cancer.net, patients and their support groups filled with loved ones may engage in some activities to help recognize and celebrate memorable milestones. These activities include planning a nice dinner or party-like gathering and spending time donating money or volunteering to a cancer charity. Perhaps the way you memorialize your cancer milestone could be independent of others. Examples include a solitary walk in nature and allowing your senses to take hold while you reflect.
Joana’s Cancer Journey
Kerns told People she was diagnosed with non-invasive stage zero breast cancer in November 2016. The diagnosis came after she underwent a routine mammogram, which screens for breast cancer. She was surprised to learn she had cancer because she has no family history of the disease, and she receives regular screenings.
“I had been vigilant about screenings and exams, except this time I had missed a couple of years in there due to work and family issues, and suddenly I turn around, and it’s two years later, and I hadn’t done it, and I have cancer – it was quite shocking,” Kerns said.
Stage zero breast cancer refers to DCIS or Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. DCIS are abnormal cells that line the duct in a breast. A normal breast is made up of lots of ducts that carry milk to the nipple in a woman who is lactating. This type of breast cancer is invasive, meaning it has not spread outside the milk duct and can’t invade other parts of the breast.
WATCH: Understanding stage zero breast cancer.
“The reason why it needs to come out is, number one, it can prevent future breast cancer. Number two, sometimes, beneath that DCIS, there can actually be a hidden cancer,” Comen adds.
Kerns underwent two lumpectomies and a double mastectomy to help reduce her cancer risk. During a lumpectomy, just the cancer and an area of healthy tissue around it is removed. A double mastectomy is a procedure to remove both breasts. Sometimes, a mastectomy is performed to reduce a woman’s risk of developing cancer, especially if she is at high risk of cancer.
WATCH: When to consider a mastectomy?
“Had I not caught my cancer this early on, I would have had to have a year of chemotherapy, and because of the reoccurrence and aggressiveness of this particular type of cancer, which was non-invasive HER2, I chose to do the mastectomy,” Kerns said.
A prophylactic, or preventative, mastectomy is an operation where the breast tissue is removed to prevent cancer from developing in the future.
“Risk-reducing mastectomies are an operation where we take women at, usually, very high-risk for getting breast cancer for genetic mutation carriers, who are the ones at the highest risk; there’s unfortunately only one way to actually prevent breast cancer,” Dr. Elisa Port, Chief of Breast Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System, tells SurvivorNet.
Some women decide to have their breasts reconstructed and have implants put in right after the mastectomy, while others don’t have reconstruction at all.
What To Ask Your Doctor
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may have questions about keeping your strength through treatment. Here are a few questions to help you begin the conversation with your doctor:
- What treatment will I be receiving?
- What side effects are associated with this treatment?
- Are there steps I can take daily to help minimize these side effects?
- What physical activity routine do you recommend for me during treatment?
- Do you have recommendations for someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy exercise?
- Can you recommend a dietician who can help me with healthy eating tips and weight maintenance?
- I’ve been having trouble sleeping. Do you have any treatment recommendations?