When Kelley Tuthill learned she was pregnant with her third child, the news came to her as a two-fold surprise.
“Life takes you on a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Breast cancer was definitely one of them,” she says recalling her diagnosis 12 years ago. “Then to have a beautiful baby arrive unexpectedly was both the shock and gift of a lifetime.”
In 2006, Kelley was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had given birth to her second child six months earlier. It was the Friday before Christmas. She was 36 years old.
“When I say I wasn’t expecting the diagnosis, I was blindsided,” she says.
After undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Kelley successfully completed her treatment in 2007 and has remained in remission ever since.
Her tumor, which was HER2-positive, was aggressive. It was successfully treated with traztuzumab, a targeted therapy known as Herceptin – a medicine developed thanks to early clinical trials supported by BCRF funding. The drug has been proven to decrease the risk of recurrence in HER2-positive cancers by 50 percent.
“When you look at the importance of research, the targeted treatment was there when I needed it desperately. And it’s the only reason why I’m alive,” she says.
Not only did the targeted therapy put Kelley’s cancer in remission, but it gave her a chance to be a mom for a third time. However, this was not a path she could have predicted.
For five years post-treatment, Kelley took tamoxifen, an estrogen-blocker, to prevent the cancer from reoccurring. Given her course of treatment as well as her age, she did not expect nor plan for a third child.
“I had a baby nine years after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time of my diagnosis, I thought I was going to lose my life. Never did I in a million years think that I would be able to give birth again and have another child,” Kelley says.
Since then, Kelley has become a strong advocate for breast cancer research.
“I always say BCRF not only saved my life, but they made it possible for me to have another life,” she reflects. “So I truly owe this organization a huge debt of gratitude.”
While research advancements helped Kelley move past her disease, more breakthroughs need to be made to help everyone impacted by breast cancer.
“I want there to be a world ahead for everyone’s daughters where they don’t ever have to worry about this disease,” she says. “Research is how we’re going to get there.”
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