Cancer Advocate is Walking Proof that Mammograms Save Lives
As a long-time health care professional, Kay Boik was no stranger to the importance of yearly mammograms. About 10 years ago, when she was called back for a repeat of her mammogram, she was skeptical.
“Three other women in my office had been called back to repeat their mammograms, and I wondered if that was necessary for me, because they wanted me to come back too,” she said. “They found nothing when my friends went back, so I thought about skipping it.”
Kay worked as an emergency department registered nurse and as part of a medical air-transport team. She was at a trauma meeting where she happened to mention her thoughts to her friend, a physician.
“I told her I had no symptoms, no family history, nothing. I figured they were probably just having problems calibrating the machine,” she said. “I told Julie I was considering not going back.
The “Julie” in question was Julie Reiland, MD, Avera Medical Group breast surgeon. Reiland was perplexed.
“Julie was like ‘No, really, you’re not going?’ She was surprised at me,” Kay said. “She made it clear: I should go back.” Two weeks later, Boik was in Reiland’s office to schedule surgery for her breast cancer. Her repeat screening mammogram led to an ultrasound, biopsy and diagnosis.
She did have cancer.
“I hate to think of what would have happened had I not gone back,” she said. “But my self-exam, my family history – there were no indicators. But it does happen. I’m proof of that.”
Taking Literal Next Steps
After successful breast surgery to remove the area of cancer, her doctors found the cancer was also in her lymph nodes. She received chemotherapy and radiation, and she also was part of a clinical trial. She was able to keep working, in part because that trial allowed her to get smaller doses of chemotherapy.
“I still have my unopened bottle of nausea pills,” she said. “It’s a trophy for me.”
It’s a victory trophy because Boik, now 10 years later, is cancer free. But her life has changed tremendously. Just two years after her cancer diagnosis, two of her seven sisters were also diagnosed with cancer; one with breast cancer. Both have had positive outcomes. Now all are advocates – and take action.
“When I was facing my cancer, my sisters started training for the 60-mile Susan G. Komen Three-Day breast cancer walk, and I joined in with them,” Kay said. “And then we continued to walk – to support each other.”
Walking Together with Purpose
With the OK of her oncologist, she joined them, training during her chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She completed her first 60-mile walk with the help of four sisters just weeks after her radiation therapy.
“We are getting ready to do our 10th walk this year,” she said. “We do it for each other, and for all women with breast cancer. It’s a really great event, and at each one we have attended, we have met many amazing people.”
As a family, Boik and her sisters have raised more than $100,000 for breast cancer research with their walking efforts. She continues working as a nurse and helps other patients who, like her, received their diagnosis with a mammogram.
“I want all women to be proactive and protect themselves; a mammogram is the best way to do that,” she said. “If you’re sitting in a room with 16 people, remember – two of the people in that room will get breast cancer. If you’re one of them, you can fight it, if you stay positive and stay strong.”
That’s why Kay reminds all women: make a screening mammogram part of your health care plan.