Joby Koren – Breast Cancer Survivor Diagnosed in July of 2011
Joby Koren is an east coast native who relocated to sunny Colorado for college and has spent the past twenty + years in Denver Radio and currently serves the Denver Market as the Director of Sales at Entercom Communications, home to #1 ranked stations 99.5 The Mountain, KOSI 101.1, Alice 105.9, and Studio 1430 KEZW AM. Joby’s more than just a Denver Radio veteran; she’s a mother, a wife, a skier, a tennis player, and a good friend who lights up the room with a simple smile. Read her story below.
July 19th 2011 started like any other day, wake up, shower, get dressed, drop the kids off at camp, go to work, pretty normal day except it happened to be my birthday. And…I got a phone call at 4:30pm that would change my life forever. I had had an irregular mammogram a few weeks earlier followed up by a biopsy. The doctors and technicians had reassured me that it was nothing to worry about; they had found a small mass but most likely nothing. They just wanted to make sure with a biopsy. I had had biopsies before and they had always been clear so no reason to worry. No family history of cancer, I was active, fairly young and healthy. No reason to worry.
So the call at 4:30pm in the afternoon on July 19th was not what I was expecting to hear. The lab results of my biopsy showed that I had CANCER. Not a lot of details at that point but referred me to additional doctors that began a six week roller coaster of doctor’s appointments, screenings, tests and labs. They caught the cancer early and the original diagnosis was DCIS (a non-invasive cancer that had not spread). Fairly good news; a lumpectomy would remove the cancerous cells and I might need radiation following the surgery, only a week or two of recovery and all would be fine. So I scheduled the procedure but as additional radiology tests and results came in the cancer was more widespread than originally suspected and would require a mastectomy. And then additional testing showed that there was an additional mass that was invasive (IDC) and it was a high grade cancer (faster growing) so a double mastectomy was recommended and surgery was scheduled for Friday, September 2nd.
The hardest part of this six week span was how and when to tell family, friends and co-workers. I didn’t feel sick, didn’t look sick and didn’t want to be sick. Telling my co-workers in a group meeting the week before my surgery was very difficult. And telling my children (ages 8 &12) was even harder. My husband and I took them out to dinner and told them. I got a little teary eyed but they seemed fine.
On September 2nd at 5am we checked in at the hospital for an eight hour surgery. Much of my prognosis, future treatment and recovery depended on the results of that surgery and whether or not cancer was found in my lymph nodes. Normally I am not the worrying type but each step through the diagnosis so far seemed to uncover scarier and more difficult news so I was fearful of the potential findings. One of my last screenings before the surgery also showed a “mass” on my liver. The doctors said they would know a lot more after my surgery from the lymph node results and again not to worry. But the last time they said not to worry the news was not good so this time I was worried and after one sleepless night I got up and “googled” LIVER CANCER. Don’t ever do that; turns out liver cancer has a very low survival rate. That night I went to a movie with my family to try to take my mind off of my worries. But in a dark haze most of what I remember is the previews for movies coming out for the holidays and wondering if I would be alive then.
I woke up in recovery at about 6pm groggy and fighting to keep my eyes open. But met by my husband who was there to tell me the news: the cancer had NOT spread to my lymph nodes (and liver cancer was ruled out).
My recovery from that point went well; the cancer was gone. But at a four week follow up appointment pathology reports from the removed cells showed that my chance for recurrence was high. Chemotherapy was recommended and they suggested that I start treatments right away. I felt triumphant and relieved having beat cancer. I was back at work and starting to get back to life as normal. Now the thought of going through chemo was terrifying and devastating. Up to this point I still didn’t look sick or feel sick (just a little weak from the surgery). Ironically now cancer free I would look and feel the sickest. Ultimately the doctors would leave the decision to me as to whether or not I go through chemo treatments. I walked home from the hospital after getting this news needing to clear my head and for the first time in this cancer journey cried. I felt fine, I didn’t want to be sick for four months, I didn’t want to lose my hair, I didn’t want to risk dangerous infections with low white blood cell counts but most importantly I couldn’t chance a recurrence. I couldn’t leave my parents without a daughter, my brothers without a sister, my husband without a wife and my children without a mom.
I started chemo treatments the next week. I lost all of my hair three weeks later. But miraculously I never felt sick from the chemo. A little weak as I finished my last treatment on Christmas Eve, but never really sick. And at this point, a little more than six months after my diagnosis, my cancer treatment was finished. As New Year’s Eve came I had a whole new reason to celebrate a new year and an entirely different outlook on life.
From the dark haze before my surgery to the feeling of survival at the end of the end of my treatments came a new appreciation for every new day, for life, for loved ones and simple pleasures.
I encourage every woman to get a mammogram. I didn’t go to the doctor because I was sick; it was just a routine exam. If I had procrastinated or not gone in for that routine mammogram the outcome would have been a lot different. I had always supported the Susan G. Komen foundation, running the “Race for the Cure” for years because it “just seemed like a great cause and a fun race.” I never imagined I would be the beneficiary of the incredible research the foundation supports. I am grateful beyond words for all that Susan G. Komen does to further breast cancer research and for having a part in saving my life. In addition to Susan G. Komen I credit my family, friends and each of my doctors, oncologists and radiologists at The Rocky Mountain Cancer Center, Sky Ridge Hospital, Rose Medical Center and Invision Sally Jobe. Thank you all for the gift of life.