Patty Hess was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2005. Three weeks after she finished her treatment, her daughter, Sara Jordan, was diagnosed.
Hess said she believes she was diagnosed with the disease first so she could help her daughter fight it later.
The first year that the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Lycoming County event was held, Jordan spoke about her experiences as the youngest woman in Lycoming County, at the time, to be diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 28.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
Patty Hess, left, and her daughter, Sara Jordan, both of Unityville, are battling breast cancer. Hess was rediagnosed with the disease last month.
Her mother gave her a shower packet that encouraged her to do self-breast exams every month. It was during one of those exams that she found a lump.
The doctors found a 10-centimeter tumor that they shrunk down to 2 centimeters to remove. Her doctor did not know if she could remove the entire tumor and recommended breast removal.
Following eight chemotherapy sessions, a double mastectomy and 28 radiation treatments, Jordan finished treatment July 2006.
Every year, she gets a checkup in the form of a PET - positron emission tomography - scan.
The checkups are important because they can help doctors locate disease in the body.
Last month, Hess was rediagnosed with breast cancer.
"This year, Making Strides will be a whole different ball game," she said.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer the first time changed Hess' reaction to sickness. Even when she had something as simple as a cold, she would call her friend, who was diagnosed a year before her, to tell her she had the 24-hour cancer bug, not knowing how serious her sickness was.
"You have to (laugh a lot)," Hess said. "If you don't, you cry."
Because of the mother-daughter duo, the Kathryn Candor Lundy Breast Health Center often was filled with laughter when they were there, which sometimes helped relax some of the other patients.
"Most of the time, there's still a lot of people who have in mind some of the older treatments and still have a lot of fear because of the things they know in the past," said Susan Branton, medical director for the center. "We try to erase some of those misconceptions and fear."
While the center only has been at its new location on the first floor of Divine
Providence Hospital for a year, Branton has seen a lot of changes since she started working in the field in 1992.
"I think we've made big improvements in less invasive treatment and a big improvement and response to treatment and cosmetics, balancing cosmetic issues with treatment," she said. "We can do less invasive surgery, which leaves people with a much better body image afterward."
Awareness also has grown, to the point that people are probably more aware of breast cancer than any other cancer, said Dr. Linda Myers.
"I think that is that way because it is so common because so many women are affected," Myers said. "It's a women's issue. It's important to women ... They take care of situations. For that reason, when someone is affected, that person goes on to advocate."
Through the years, Myers has seen more people diagnosed with breast cancer, which she attributed partly to awareness and to improvements in early diagnosis.
In 2011, 209 local people were diagnosed. In 2010, 203 people were, according to the center.
People, not women. While many associate women with breast cancer, men can have it, too.
As in Jordan's case, breast cancer can occur in people in their 20s up through the 90s, Branton said.
"It can affect almost anyone," she said. "Between 50 and 70 is the highest risk."
For information about how to conduct a breast self-exam, visit women.webmd.com/healthtool-self-breast-exam.
Survivors who wish to tell their stories can be nominated for the Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania's 12th annual Galley of Hope, a traveling display of survivor profiles and educational materials.
Any female or male breast cancer survivor in the 13-county service area can be nominated by visiting bcnepa.com/hope before Nov. 2 and clicking on "Nominate a Survivor."
The 2013 honorees will be announced in January.