Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - 8

cancer is beyond a cure. She is relieved that
Kelleher came to her at a young age: "If one
just looked at Nicole's negative genetic testing, it is possible that someone could have
missed her incredibly high-risk status and
simply had her doing regular cancer screenings starting at 40 or 50," Dr. Modesitt says.

A Benefit to
Future Generations

Kelleher was in medical school at UVA
when her mother passed away from breast
cancer at age 52. She is forever grateful to
her mother, as it was her late-stage cancer diagnosis that made Kelleher diligent
about her own health. "My mother's only
regret in life was not getting to meet her
grandchildren," Kelleher says. "Because
of her passing and the diligence of UVA
physicians, my cancer was diagnosed
early. Today, I am cancer-free and have an
excellent prognosis for permanent cure.
"I cannot tell you how grateful I am to
the UVA high-risk program and everyone
at the Cancer Center," she adds. "Thanks
to them, I am very likely to watch my
cherished children grow and to see them
go to college."

Involving Children in
the Treatment Plan

Because Kelleher's cancer was found so
early, her treatment plan required surgery
but no chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
One of the most difficult aspects of life
after breast-removing surgery was having
to step back from her role as mom. For
several weeks, Kelleher was unable to pick
up Connor and had to put regular cuddles
on hold. She made this easier by presenting each boy with a big teddy bear, which
he could hold whenever he needed a cuddle from mom.
Kelleher and her husband, Nick-whom
she calls her rock-tried to protect their
children from the unpleasant aspects
of her cancer treatment, but that only
caused more disruption, so the parents
took a different approach: "The most
counterintuitive discovery we have made
through this process with my older son

8

W IN TER 2 0 1 9

is that he wants to be involved in the
things we want to shield him from the
most," Kelleher writes on her blog,
theunspeakablelove.com, which she
started to help other families facing
cancer while raising young children.
At first, Kelleher and her husband
would lock Aden out of the room as Nick
emptied her surgical drains (needed
in the weeks following surgery). "Now,
before bedtime every night, Aden holds
the waste container while my husband
strips the drain," Kelleher describes on
her blog. "Aden then passes the container to Nick. Nick dumps the drains
and reseals them. Then Aden applies
two Band-Aids, one to each of my hands.
Aden will tell you the Band-Aids are the
most important part, and he is right.
He beams with pride after applying his
Band-Aids. Aden takes his job very seriously. ... Once we opened the closed
door on the gory process he feared, Aden
adopted a sense of control, pride and
even peace. No more tantrums or anxiety fits before bedtime." n

WEBSITE

See a
Specialist in
High-Risk
Cancers
You can learn whether you carry
a genetic mutation that puts
you at greater risk for cancer.
You can get cancer screenings
tailored just for you. You can
find out if you need medication to help prevent cancer. For
example, birth control pills can
cut the risk in half for endometrial and ovarian cancers in
women who have a strong family
history of these cancers. You can
also learn whether risk-reducing
surgery could help bring a cancerfree future. Learn more at
uvahealth.com/risk.

AM I AT RISK FOR CANCER?
Most cancers don't have a genetic link but are the result of lifestyle. "A significant
number of colon, endometrial and postmenopausal breast cancers are obeserelated," says Susan Modesitt,
MD. As founder of the UVA
An Aspirin a Day to Keep
High-Risk Breast and Ovarian
Colon Cancer Away
Cancer Program, she has
devoted her career to preIf you are 50 to 59 years old, taking a low-dose
venting cancer and closely
aspirin a day can reduce your risk of colon canfollowing those at high risk
cer, according to the U.S. Preventive Services
for cancer due to heredity
Task Force. UVA cancer doctor Susan Modesitt,
and other reasons. "We could
MD, highly recommends a daily aspirin for
eliminate half of all U.S. canpeople in this age group who have a family hiscers if everybody followed a
tory of colon cancer-the third leading cause of
healthy diet and got regular
cancer deaths in the U.S. Aspirin is available over
exercise," Dr. Modesitt says.
the counter and has long been recommended
It's also important to know
for reducing cardiovascular disease in this age
whether you may have a
group. The task force recommends, however,
hereditary risk for cancer.
that you talk to your primary care provider
Learn the telltale signs at
before starting to take aspirin to make sure the
uvahealth.com/inherit.
benefits outweigh any risks.


http://www.theunspeakablelove.com http://www.uvahealth.com/risk http://www.uvahealth.com/inherit

Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA

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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - Contents
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