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A Link to a Friendship

After her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stephanie Katz sought counseling and genetic testing through The Rosenfeld Cancer Center’s Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment Program. The Willow Grove woman, then 26, learned she had the BRCA1 mutation. “For me, it wasn’t a question of if, but when, I would have a prophylactic mastectomy,” she explains. “Still, I wanted to talk to another woman my age about the emotions I was experiencing. I searched internet boards and didn’t find anyone in my area in the same situation: healthy but with a 90% greater risk of developing breast cancer in my lifetime.”

Robyn Large (left) and Stephanie Katz

Oncology Nurse Clinical Specialist Meredith Kessler, RN, says, “We counsel women at different life stages, providing clinical information and emotional support throughout. Stephanie was determined to learn all she could and choose what was best for her.”

Meredith remembered Stephanie’s wish when Robyn Large, of Abington, also tested positive for the gene. With permission, she gave Robyn’s phone number to Stephanie. However, Robyn didn’t call back right away, still reeling from losing her mother to breast cancer in 2010. “By the time I got around to calling, I felt too much time had passed,” Robyn remembers.

A series of coincidences, including having friends and family in common, brought the women together. “We talked for three to four hours that first night,” Robyn says. “It was such a relief to talk to another woman who really understood.” 

“We were meant to meet,” Stephanie agrees. “Since then we’ve gotten together several times. We are fortunate to have supportive significant others and families, but the bond we share is unique.”

Robyn underwent her prophylactic bilateral mastectomy in November 2010. As she recuperates, she’ll no doubt be in touch with Stephanie, who had her surgery in 2009. “I’m really proud of who I am,” Stephanie says. “I call people like Robyn and myself ‘pre-vivors.’ We can move on with the rest of our lives now.”

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