October Inspiration Issue Cancer Survivors

Amanda Harper


Casilee Kidd Boyd 

Two years ago, Casilee was seven months overdue for her annual mammogram. When she finally made the appointment, they discovered the abnormalities that would turn out to be Stage 1B Triple Negative Breast Cancer, one of the more aggressive forms.

Casilee elected to have a bi-lateral double mastectomy. She underwent four doses of dense AC chemotherapy. As a mortgage lender with Northpointe Bank and mother to three teenagers, she knew found support from her husband, friends, coworkers and family. “I realized I was not in this by myself and had so much left to live and fight like hell for,” she said.

What advice would you give to anyone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer?
We have amazing medical care right here in Lexington with so many local support groups and services. Take advantage of all the resources out there. The resources at UK’s Markey Center are incredible. I also took advantage of the American Cancer’s Society’s resources including the “Look Good Feel Better Program”.

What was the most challenging part of your cancer battle? Without a doubt, the hair loss. I never felt sick or felt like I had cancer until I saw the effects it had on my hair and watching it fall out so suddenly. I gave myself a few days of pity party then bought some amazing wigs and never looked back.

Eva White

Eva, a Deputy Clerk at the District Criminal Court House, was 42 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, her daughter was a teenager. Eva said she just focused on her daughter and living to be there for her. She underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.

In 2012, she was diagnosed again through an ultrasound. She had another mastectomy, which has led to Eva being pronounced cancer-free!

Now, Eva’s daughter is 34 and living in Marietta, GA and has a teenage son of her own. “They are my everything,” Eva said. “I try to see them and spend as much time as I can with them.” She says she loves getting together with family and friends whenever she can.

What advice would you give
to someone facing a cancer diagnosis?

Trust in God and pray. Think about what inspires you to stay strong and fight.

What was something that you learned through your cancer journey?
All things are possible through Christ, who strengthens you!

How has cancer changed your life?
It let me know how blessed I am, and not to take life for granted.

Judy Bond Borg 

Last year, Judy was experiencing lower abdominal pressure and pain in her left side. She was bloated in spite of regular exercise. A CT scan uncovered “metastic omentum caking” or thickening of the fatty tissue that stretches over the abdomen. A biopspy revealed that Judy had primary perionetal cancer, a rare cousin of ovarian cancer. Because her mother died of ovarian cancer at only 38-years-old, Judy had undergone an elective hysterectomy in 2014. As Judy learned, it is possible to develop this cancer even if your ovaries have been removed. This type of cancer has a high chance of recurrence with only a 30% chance of living five years. Unlike other forms of cancer, there is no maintenance plan that would help. “I’m hopeful that more research will be done for peritoneal cancer that would offer either clinical trials or new treatments,” Judy said.

What advice would you give to others who have been diagnosed with cancer?
I would say that you know your body better than anyone. When you notice that something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it. Seek medical care right away to get to the bottom of your concerns.

What local resources did you rely on for support?
I had an amazing GYN Oncologist, Dr. Charles Dietrich, at Markey Cancer Center. He made me feel from the moment I met him that I was in good hands. I utilized the Cancer Counseling Services provided through Markey to help me process my thoughts and feelings about having cancer.

Bob Quick

On his 16th work anniversary at Commerce Lexington, Inc., Bob’s life changed forever. He had been seeing his internist for several months for minor abdominal pain, but something changed on the days leading up to February 5, 2017. “I felt like I had a Star Wars battle going off inside by lower abdomen and chest,” he explained. Bob called Dr. Michael Karpf, a UK Hopsital executive, and described the pain he was experiencing. Dr. Karpf instructed him to go to the ER, where he had three doctors ready to assist Bob with testing.

Bob had an aggressive form of lymphoma, Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin Large Diffuse B Cell Lymphoma. He didn’t have a lot of time to process his disease or treatment options. Bob and his wife did their homework on the oncologist that Dr. Karpf recommended, Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt. Bob endured six 3-week cycles of dose adjusted EPOCH, some of the strongest chemotherapy drugs available. He also had chemo injected directly into his brain via eight spinal taps to protect his central nervous system and keep it cancer-free. By June, he was declared officially in remission and he began a stem cell transplant. He later turned to the YMCA’s Livestrong program to help rebuild his stamina.

What advice would you give to someone facing cancer?
Develop the best support system for care that you can–at home and medically. Get to know your medical team from the oncologist or pharmacist to the nurses, techs and general staff. Ask lots of questions–it’s better to know what you are up against. There is actual relief in knowing the truth.

Josh Paschal

Kentucky redshirt sophomore linebacker Josh was only 19 years old when he noticed a small dot on his right foot. “I didn’t care too much about it because I thought it was a blood blister,” he explained.

The black spot under Josh’s big toe grew to the size of a dime and began to sting. It became surrounded by smaller “satellite” dots. He went to his athletic trainer, who had him consult a podiatrist and eventually a dermatologist. A biopsy revealed the real diagnosis: melanoma.

Josh underwent three surgeries to remove the cancer. A biopsy of the lymph nodes in his groin revealed a trace amount of cancer cells, so he just wrapped up a year of immunotherapy.

What advice would you give to others?
Whatever you see on your skin that looks irregular, you should get that checked. And wear sunscreen no matter what color you are!

What did you learn from your cancer journey?
I’ve learned patience. You have to wait to heal. My faith as a Christian is what’s keeping everything together, it’s keeping me positive and it has given me the strength to know everything is going to work out for His will. Having cancer made me stronger in my faith and made the bond with my family and friends even stronger as well

Dawn Barnett

Dawn started a small business in July 2017 called Staging the Bluegrass with her business partner, Amy Bronski. Just three months later, she found a lump during a breast self-exam. She went to have a mammogram and was officially diagnosed with breast cancer.

The wife and mother of two teenagers underwent a double mastectomy and subsequent reconstruction. Her treatment plan entailed eight rounds of chemotherapy and 33 days of radiation.

Dawn, 49, loves to go to the lake with her family and two dogs. She attends horse shows for her daughter and loves to meet the barn families.

What advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer?
Never give up! For me, the most challenging part was not letting it bring me down. You think the process is never going to end. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Try and find another survivor that you can connect with and share experiences with. Your family and friends are your support system! They give you your strength.

How has cancer changed your perspective?
I’m more thankful for every day. Life is too short: don’t be afraid to try new things and experiences!

Justin Evans

Justin went to the ER in November 2016 with abdominal pain. The 27-year-old was sent home with pain pills. Luckily, his general practitioner asked to see him once the CT scan results hit their system. They found a lump in Justin’s neck, which they biopsied. This revealed Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a lymphoma that occurs most commonly between the ages of 15 and 35.

As the General Manager a local Panera Bread, Justin decided to work through his recovery. He was fortunate to have the support of those around him, including his wife and three fur babies.

What advice would you give to others who have been diagnosed with cancer?
Every person has to go through their journey in their own way. I truly believe that your mental state is half of the battle. I cannot imagine not having the positivity I had during my treatment; it would have been a much different fight.

What did you learn from your cancer journey?
We cannot always see what people are going through. We cannot assume that someone having a bad day is always their fault. They may be going through something under the surface that we cannot even imagine.

I am heavily involved in supporting other cancer patients through a peer to peer program at Baptist Health. Talking to these people through their struggles and sharing experiences has humbled me.

Joey Maggard

Joey had put his first routine colonoscopy off for–he admits–too long. At 54, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal cancer. He underwent two surgeries, one to remove the tumor and one to remove the metastases on his liver. Eight rounds of chemotherapy were also part of his treatment plan. Joey and his wife, Sara, just celebrated their 33rd anniversary. He says she is the one who held everything and everyone together through this experience. They have two children who live in Washington, DC.

Through his work as the Executive Director of the American Heart Association chapter in Lexington, Joey has met many survivors. He was inspired by their bravery, especially that of Finn Collier, a boy who was incredibly brave in the face of sometimes uncertain odds. A special cousin, Trisha Verdin, inspired Joey to get tested after her own diagnosis last year. She passed earlier this summer. She was just 43.

What advice would you give to others facing cancer?
Stay positive! This is a new age in health care and there have been so many advances that have improved survival rates.

What did you learn from your cancer journey?
Just how precious life is and how many great people there are in this world!

What resources did you turn to?

I had and all-star medical team! My gastroenterologist, my surgeon, my oncologist and a neurologist we consulted with were tremendous. A special shout out to the infusion nurses who deal with cancer patients daily with smiles on their faces, with empathy and with great knowledge! My physical therapists are excellent.

Penny Cooper

Penny is the Direct of Patient Safety and Risk Management at Baptist Health Lexington. In 2002, she was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41. At the time, her son was just 15-years- old. She found herself thinking that she had to be there to raise him.

She underwent a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation treatment. She took an estrogen modulator for five years. But in 2015, she faced a recurrence. At that time, she had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.

What advice would you give to others facing cancer?
Do not let cancer consume your life. I know it sounds cliché, but stay positive and keep a smile on your face. You cannot dwell on cancer or it will take over your life and those around you.

Utilized the three F’s: family, friends and FUN! I was blessed with a family that consisted of my relatives, a special person in my life and my Baptist Health friends. The fun for me was watching UK basketball when I was in the hospital or at home healing from surgery or treatment.

How did you find the strength to fight your battle?
I have never been the kind of person when confronted with a difficult situation to say, “I can’t do this.” I have always faced these situations head on with “how CAN I do this?” I educated myself on what I needed to do and started the process, looking at each step individually.

Sally Rober

Retired from teaching for 33 years, Sally is on boards of CancerLink.org and Alltech. After an evening of playing tennis about a year ago, Sally noticed a bruise. She felt it and discovered a small lump the size of a jelly bean on her breast. Her husband, a physician, made her an appointment at St. Joseph East.

Sally’s radiologist, Dr. Kenney, gave Sally her the diagnosis of HER2 positive breast cancer. After 6 rounds of chemotherapy with Dr. Croley, Sally underwent a lumpectomy followed by radiation and immunotherapy treatments. She has just a few rounds left, then will take a daily pill that inhibits estrogen growth for 5 years.

What advice would you give to others facing cancer?
I would tell them to trust their intuition. If something does not feel right, then talk to your doctor about it. They are so receptive to hearing from you.

What are positive ways you’re processing your cancer journey?
I am seeing a life coach, who I had initially hoped would help me through my fears of this illness. She has helped me through this, but she has also done a lot more for me. I am learning to live with a sense of peace, acceptance and love. I am also learning about restorative yoga which has been rejuvenating for the sore body, but for the heart as well. It is as good as getting a massage!

John Schlarman

Just before the start of the football season in the fall of 2018, this Kentucky Offensive Line Coach found himself feeling like something wasn’t quite right. He would get uncomfortable after eating, and he initially thought it was acid reflux. He went to the UK Medical Center for tests. An endoscopy and colonoscopy were inconclusive, but an ultrasound turned up a lot of red flags. He was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, or cancer of the bile ducts. The husband and father of four is taking a trial drug through MD Anderson in Huston.

What advice would you give to others facing cancer?
Take it one day at a time. There will be highs and lows and at first a lot of lows. Put it in people’s hand that know what they are talking about. Trust the doctors and listen to them. Grit your teeth and battle through.

How were you able to find the strength to fight?
I think in most people the strength is there. This is what I have to deal with and I’m going to do whatever it takes. What’s the other option? You really don’t have a choice. I attribute my strength to my parents. They taught us to be fighters and to fight through it. It’s what you’re made of, too.

Cancer has made my faith stronger. It’s helped me continue to appreciate my family. I also appreciate Coach Stoops and the entire staff. They have been unbelievable. It makes me want to fight harder for them.

Ashley Mams

Last August, Ashley discovered a lump on her breast while changing clothes. She visited her gynecologist, who sent her for a mammogram and ultrasound. This led to a diagnosis of Stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma. She underwent eight total doses of chemotherapy. She used the new cold cap technology to help preserve her hair. This was followed by a lumpectomy and 20 rounds of radiation. She now takes hormone therapy drugs.

Ashley is an Expanded Duties Dental Assistant at Beaumont Family Dentistry. She is engaged and has four fur babies.

What advice would you give
to someone who was recently diagnosed with cancer?

It is so very scary and it’s okay to cry. I was so scared and in the end, I am so proud of myself for getting through it!

What did you learn from your cancer journey?
There’s so much more to life than what many think and I now try not to let things bother me like they did. Some things are so trivial now.

How were you able to find the strength to fight?
I have a wonderful group of friends, as well as my mom, my fiancé and my work family. They really helped me a lot. Going out and doing something–even as simple as getting gas for my car or going for a walk–really helped. I also turned to My Pink Navigator as a resource.

Dr. Emily Marcinkowski

As a board-certified Surgical Oncologist who treats specializes in breast, skin and soft tissue cancers, Dr. Marcinkowski knows how important it is to stay aware of your body. Two years ago, while detaching her breast pump, she felt a lump in her left breast. She was diagnosed with Stage IIB invasive ductal carcinoma.

Emily felt very fortunate to have her staff at UK Markey Cancer Center. Friends and colleagues handled her care throughout the entire process, from diagnosis to reconstruction. She underwent 18 weeks of chemotherapy and one year of Herceptin treatment following bilateral mastectomies.

What advice would you give to anyone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer?
Use your resources and your friends; they want to help you. Our cancer center wants to help you. Ask questions! No question is off-limits. Do things that make you feel in control.

What did you learn from your cancer journey?
What the human body is capable of. I’ve never been so sick, and yet I put one foot in front of the other.

I also learned how trite we can be as health care providers. I used to say things like, “Hair will grow back!” Well, for some patients, it doesn’t, and losing your hair–and that sense of control–is a big deal.