Mom, writer offers help to others at KP Cancer Survivors Day 6/8/2014
Leticia Croft-Holguin was in the ninth month of an uneventful pregnancy when she felt a burning in her breast. She didn’t think much of it, being young, 28 years old at the time, healthy, and with no family history of breast cancer. That is, until she off-handedly mentioned the burning sensation to her Kaiser Permanente San Jose physician.
“She discovered a lump, and everything happened really fast after that,” smiles Croft-Holguin. “Within a few days, I had an ultrasound, a biopsy, and a cancer diagnosis. Then I gave birth, had chemo and radiation, surgery and reconstruction.”
How Croft-Holguin responded, and kept her spirits up during her treatment and recovery, will be one of the inspiring and powerful stories told at this year’s free Cancer Survivors Day, hosted by the Kaiser Permanente San Jose and Santa Clara Medical Centers Sunday, June 8th. It will take place at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara, Lawrence Expwy. and Homestead Road (Registration required: http://events.SignUp4.com/csd2014).
She’ll tell about learning her cancer was “triple negative,” which makes it non-responsive to certain medications and may put her at risk for recurrence. And she’ll talk about discovering her BRCA-1 gene defect that could also lead to more cancer. If Croft-Holguin was devastated then, it didn’t show in the re-telling recently at a Pruneyard coffee shop.
“Kaiser Permanente saved my life,” says Croft-Holguin, “and I decided that the cancer was bestowed on me for a reason. I call it a ‘sacrificial purpose.”
Croft-Holguin’s appearance at KP’s Cancer Survivors Day (“Seeds of Hope”) is one of many positive and hope-promoting efforts she’s made in the four years since becoming a cancer survivor. She’s founded a website (Ymoms.org) dedicated to young women and breast cancer.
Croft-Holguin also created a charming children’s book called “Cancer Starts With C” (Tate Publishing) that explains to very young children what cancer is (“bad cells”) and why their parents might be tired and losing their hair during treatment.
“I’ve spoken to many cancer support groups,” says Croft-Holguin. “I like the idea of encouraging others to remain positive, and not let their cancer define them.”
“Breast cancer in women under 40 years old is uncommon,” says Dr. Susan Kutner, a surgeon and Kaiser Permanente leader in Breast Cancer care, who will moderate a panel on Cancer Survivor’s Day. “Survivors (like Croft-Holguin) speaking out is very valuable to other young survivors.”
Kutner points out that most breast cancer screening guidelines begin at age 40, and premenopausal women often have denser breast tissue making diagnosis challenging. Young women also often have familial, hormonal, genetic and lifestyle issues that could affect their breast cancer risks.
“Every young woman should have a serious conversation with her doctor about breast cancer,” says Kutner.
Kutner’s panel and Croft-Holguin’s presentation at Seeds of Hope are two of many offering expert advice to cancer survivors, their families and friends how to manage hormonal therapy side effects, cancer and sexuality, family emotional care, and nutritional advice. There’ll be fitness and wellness activities, a Kids Fun Zone, and over 30 educational booths providing resources.
“The Cancer Survivor’s Day is a day to celebrate all cancer survivors by helping them to Survive and Thrive,” says Dr. Pilar Ivanov, Oncology Chief at Kaiser Permanente San Jose. “This is a day to hear their stories, meet other survivors, educate, provide resources to meet their needs and continue to nurture the Seeds of Hope for all.”