COLUMBIA, SC - A Midlands woman's fight against breast cancer led to a discovery that may save the lives of her sisters and daughters.
Kathryn Robinson's cancer battle started more than two years ago. "I was preparing to go to work, and while I was in the shower I just accidentally felt a lump in my breast," said Robinson.
It had been less than two months since Robinson's yearly mammogram, but she knew something wasn't right. "I called the doctor and went in that afternoon," said Robinson. "He sent me in for an ultrasound that next Monday."
Just a few days after the ultrasound Robinson was diagnosed with breast cancer and life immediately changed for her and her family.
"When my mom was diagnosed and she talked about getting genetic testing done, that's the first time I had ever heard of the gene," said Robinson's 24 year-old daughter, Ashley Lyons.
Robinson's family quickly learned about the BRCA gene malformation. It's hereditary and when present greatly increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. In the midst of chemo, Kathryn tested positive for the gene.
"I had eight rounds of chemotherapy, and I was scheduled to do radiation after that, but because I was positive with the BRCA2 gene, they did a bilateral mastectomy," said Robinson.
Doctors at Lexington Medical Center recommended the mastectomy and a hysterectomy in hopes of eliminating Robinson's future cancer risks. They also advised her family to get tested for the gene.
"I had one sister that wasn't interested in getting tested and a younger sister that I can usually persuade to do just about anything… she went and got tested," said Robinson.
As it turned out, Robinson's sister Kelly Moore also tested positive for the gene malformation. "I feel like I'm the lucky one," said Moore. "Kathryn helped to educate me, and I had all of her valuable information for what she had gone through.
Moore chose to have her ovaries removed as a preventive measure, and is now getting more frequent breast exams. For Robinson's daughter Ashley, the decision was more difficult.
"At first, I did not want to know," said Ashley. "I did not want to be tested." But Ashley says her older sister talked her into being tested for the gene. While her older sister does not have the BRCA malformation, Ashley does.
"At first I was like how do you test positive and do nothing about it…so that was kind of hard in the beginning," said Ashley.
But medical oncologist Dr. Steve Madden at Lexington Medical center says at Ashley's young age it's okay not to undergo preventive surgery as long as she's pro-active. "As long as you're aware, you're going to be on top of anything and catch it much earlier if it develops at all," added Dr. Madden.
Kathryn has been a survivor now for two years. Her family calls her a lifesaver. "She was very positive, and she inspired all of us to take a fighting approach to it," said Moore.