An Incredible Journey - From Beating Breast Cancer to Climbing Mount Everest
Three weeks before getting married, most brides
are stressing over final dress fittings, making final
arrangements with the caterer and excitedly counting
down the days before they say ‘I do.' For Olathe resident
Kelly Long, the weeks before her wedding were spent in
doctors' offices and the hospital, dealing with the news of a
breast cancer diagnosis at age 31.
Kelly's gynecologist, Dr. Gina Petelin with Olathe
Women's Center, first noticed the lump in one of her breasts
during a routine well-woman exam in April 2014. Dr. Petelin
ordered a mammogram, ultrasound and needle biopsy.
Kelly was out of town, traveling for her job when
surgeon Dr. Craig Anderson with Midwest Surgical
Associates called to deliver the news - the biopsy
confirmed the lump in her breast was cancerous.
"My first thought was, ‘I don't have time for this - I'm
getting married in three weeks!'" laughed Kelly. "In fact, I
went back to work after the call. It took a little while for the
news to sink in."
Kelly returned to Olathe Medical Center (OMC) the
next day and was tested for mutations to the cancer genes
BRCA1 and BRCA2. Mutations to either breast cancer gene
significantly increase a person's risk of breast and ovarian
cancer. Kelly's results came back positive for the BRCA2
mutation. That result combined with a family history of
breast cancer led Kelly and her medical team to choose to
fight the disease with a bilateral mastectomy (removal of
both breasts), followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
But first, Kelly married her husband Jesse in a special
destination wedding at the Grand Canyon, followed by a
honeymoon in the Southwest.
Eight days later, Dr. Anderson performed Kelly's bilateral
mastectomy at OMC. Immediately following, Kelly had
breast reconstruction surgery by Dr. Bradley Storm with
Premier Plastic Surgery.
Kelly did well through surgery, and headed home to
recover the next day. Because chemotherapy can cause
infertility, her doctors suggested In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
as an option to fertilize some of Kelly's eggs and freeze
them for a time when she and her husband may want to
start a family. Dr. Dan Gehlbach from Midwest Reproductive
Center performed IVF for the young couple at OMC.
"Since first getting my diagnosis, the possibility of
infertility was something I thought about every day," Kelly
said. "I'm glad my doctors were thinking about it too, and
made sure that having a family is still an option for us
Kelly began six rounds of chemotherapy in August 2014,
followed by radiation later that year. Dr. Larry R. Corum with Olathe Cancer Care and Dr. Kelly L. Rhodes-Stark with the Radiation Oncology Center joined Kelly's growing team of
doctors coordinating her care at OMC.
Throughout her treatment, Kelly came to depend on the
friendships she formed with her care team.
In January 2015, Kelly heard the words she was waiting for:
no more evidence of cancer. Though she officially graduated
from her cancer treatment at that time, her doctors are still
following her closely. Because she carries the BRCA gene
mutation, she is still at a high risk for developing ovarian
According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight
women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. Approximately
seven percent of women with breast cancer are diagnosed
before the age of 40 years, and the disease accounts for more
than 40 percent of all cancer in women in this age group.
"Being young doesn't mean you're not at risk," Kelly said.
"All women need to realize this disease can happen to them,
and they need to know their bodies and get regular well woman
and clinical breast exams."
In April of this year, Kelly marked her second anniversary
of her breast cancer diagnosis by climbing to the base camp
of Mount Everest in Nepal with five other young breast cancer
survivors. Kelly has also become an education ambassador
for the organization Bright Pink, an organization focused on
prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in