TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

October 15, 2012

Cancer patients, ‘You are not alone’


The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / Staff writer

Runners like Sandy Curd will tell you there’s an exhilarating feeling when you head out for a brisk trek through the countryside. When everything’s right, that sense of freedom, accomplishment and satisfaction stays with you during and after the run.

But in the spring of 2010, after one such run, Sandy discovered something wasn’t right. And that’s when she went into action.

“I was trying to get back into 5K shape, and be able to do that again. After I finished the run, I went inside to change clothes. When I was getting undressed, I found a lump in my right breast,” said Curd, who along with her husband Bryan raise Black Angus cattle and calves on their farm outside Corbin.

An advocate of mammography screening, Curd had a screening once every year. Concerned about the lump, she called her primary care physician, Dr. Athenza, who sent her for an ultrasound. In addition, she called Dr. Reedy, a radiologist, who recommended that Curd have a biopsy.

She decided to use an oncology surgeon in Lexington who had gone to school with her husband. Curd went ahead, got an appointment and the surgeon did a needle biopsy.

“A few days later, I was waiting for a phone call, expecting the results to be negative. The call came, and the nurse told me it was positive,” Curd said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

It was breast cancer. Ducal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

“In situ” means it’s a noninvasive cancer that’s not yet invaded other breast tissue. According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine’s website PubMeth Health, ducal carcinoma in situ is breast cancer in the lining of the milk duct that’s not yet invaded nearby tissues. But it may progress to invasive cancer, or spread from the milk duct or lobule to other breast tissues, if not treated.

“My husband was at work, and the nurse talked with me for a long time. Then, she said, ‘Do you have any questions?’” And I thought, ‘There’s a woman on the phone telling me I have cancer.’ It was a complete shock,” Curd recalled.

Since moving to Corbin from the Lexington-Nicholasville area some 22 years ago, Curd has been a dynamo. She calls herself “an aspiring cattle farmer.” While her husband is an Emergency Room Physician at Baptist Regional Medical Center, they both have their farm work to tend to, while Sandra is involved with programs at Corbin’s First Baptist Church, as well as other volunteer activities.

Staying active physically and mentally helps her stay in shape, and focused. And when breast cancer was diagnosed, Curd zeroed in on what had to be done.

“You have to make decisions, and when I did, I decided to have a lumpectomy. But when I had it, they didn’t get all the cancer. Since I was looking at one more surgery, I decided to go with a new plan, a complete mastectomy, followed by reconstructive surgery. The first was in June 2010, the second in August of that year, and the last one was in October 2010. By choosing a mastectomy, I was in a position to not have to choose radiation. I got the cancer out, just like that,” she stated.

Early detection was the key in Curd’s case.

“My breast cancer was caught so early, stage zero, that I had an easy time of recovery. My stage of cancer is what oncologists hope all their cases will be, right before we get a cure.”

After her last surgery, Curd was monitored for a recurrence of cancer every six months. Now, she’s down to once a year, and cancer-free.

Curd did something else that helped to shatter the barriers some have when they discover cancer has entered their life. She made it public.

“When you live in a small town, you have to decide how you’re going to tell people about it. So I did. I told people I had breast cancer, I put it on Facebook, and I requested prayer. I was overwhelmed by the support and generosity I received,” she said.

That support is very much needed again for Sandy and her husband, Bryan. This time, Bryan’s batting cancer — colon cancer.

“I take care of my husband as he fights cancer, and because of what I did sharing my diagnosis with others, he chose to be open about his cancer. As a result, he’s received a lot of support and prayers as well. We’re a third of the way through his chemo, and we have an additional surgery to go through,” she mentioned.

Still, Sandy Curd remains upbeat. And, uplifting in life and what it offers.

“The biggest thing is to remind cancer patients they are not alone. I tell them, ‘You are not alone.’ Early detection is very important, as are screening and awareness. But you can also do things for cancer patients. Bring them flowers. A gift. Or a hand-written note. And give them your phone number. Because a phone call from a concerned friend can brighten their day. That’s how I got through it,” Curd said.

At Corbin’s “Paint the Town Pink” two-mile run last Monday, she ran the race, and was pleased with her time. But how she did wasn’t high on her priority list.

“What’s important is not the fact that we’re here running the race. It’s to remind little girls and women to be aware of breast cancer. More people die because they just put off thinking about doing something, when it could be caught early.”

If there is one defining moment for Curd in her fight against breast cancer, it happened to her a year-and-a-half ago. Like last Monday’s race, it involved running.

And it involved going the distance.

It may have come to her after she had her last surgery in the fall of 2010, or towards the holiday season later that year. But in January 2011, some of her friends at First Baptist encouraged her to run a half-marathon.

That chance came three months later, in April of that year, when Curd went up to Louisville and participated in the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon, part of that city’s annual Derby Festival celebration.

“It was 13.1 miles. When I ran the race, I was on top of the world. I was in great physical shape, and I thought that surviving breast cancer made me stronger. It was glorious,” Curd said, smiling.