WILKES-BARRE -- In recognition of Breast Cancer Month, roughly 150 women attended an afternoon tea Saturday sponsored by Geisinger Health System at the Westmoreland Club.
The fourth annual event featured a panel of three breast cancer survivors and four Geisinger medical specialists. General surgeon Laura Borgos, radiation oncologist Uzma Malik, medical oncologist Paula Ronjon and plastic surgeon Anthony Bruno III were on hand to answer the many questions from the audience.
The survivors, Kathleen Zahorsky, 77, of Bear Creek; Donna Payer, 51, of Edwardsville, and Christine Ives, 46, of Madison Township, Lackawanna County, told of their personal journeys from the moment they were diagnosed, and how they took care of themselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Zahorsky said she enjoyed good health her whole life until her 2012 diagnosis.
"I have six daughters, and all of a sudden, they were the mother and I was the child," she said. "They were fantastic."
Comforted by the care and compassion of her doctor and volunteers at Candy's Place, a cancer resource center in Forty Fort, Zahorsky said she didn't worry too much. "I've been through enough in life that I thought of this as just another bump in the road."
Diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer a year ago, Payer was determined not to let cancer get in the way of her busy life and didn't dwell on the unknown.
"You get overwhelmed with every bit of information and wonder what's going to happen to you," she said. "Someone once told me there are no shortcuts with cancer. You have to take it one step at a time."
Ives, who was diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer a year ago, credits yearly mammograms for detecting the cancer in its earliest stages. "When you're given a cancer diagnosis, life stops," she said, adding that she has undergone a lumpectomy and radiation.
Even though each woman's journey was different from the other, they all said having gone through it has changed them for the better.
"I can tell you as I sit here today, that I am a much more fulfilled and better person for having gone through this experience," said Ives. "You have to allow yourself to see the silver lining in it and take lessons from it."
According to Dr. Uzma Malik, there are nearly 240,000 new cases of breast cancer, nationally each year.
Men account for one percent of all breast cancer cases.
Ninety percent of all breast cancer cases are not genetically based.
Malik's advice: Don't smoke. Watch alcohol consumption. Maintain a healthy weight and exercise. Perform regular self-checks and get yearly mammograms.