Carol Koblentz is a walking, talking, smiling example of how early detection of breast cancer can literally save your life.
Carol is the wife of Chuck Koblentz, the co-owner (along with his wife) and DJ of WWON Radio in Waynesboro. Chuck has become very well known in our area, mostly because of the radio station, but also because he is involved in many civic activities. Chuck is also the pastor of two churches in Wayne County, Whitten Crossroads and Railroad United Methodist Church.
Carol is perhaps not as well known around the county as her husband, but she is definitely no “shrinking violet.” She and Chuck bought the radio station here in Waynesboro in 2011, and ran it remotely from their home near Washington, D.C. before moving to Waynesboro in 2015.
The vicious disease of cancer took Carol’s stepmother in 2004 and her cousin in 2006, so she was familiar with the loss of loved ones to the dreaded disease. One positive that came from the loss of her loved ones to cancer, if there is such a thing as a positive in that situation, is that Carol became vigilant about self-breast exams and mammograms. She says that when it came time for her annual mammogram in May of 2019, she actually hesitated somewhat about making the appointment because she had so much going on…an excuse that most women make at some point in our busy lives. Fortunately, (or divinely, but that’s another conversation!), Carol made the appointment and went for a 3D mammogram in Florence, Alabama.
The physician’s office called Carol a day or two later and said that her mammogram had shown a suspicious spot in her left breast. Having been told something similar after previous mammograms, Carol wasn’t too concerned at first. She was scheduled for an ultrasound of her breast to get a closer look at the spot.
This time around, the ultrasound didn’t give the all-clear result that Carol was hoping for. The “spot” was identified as actually being a very small lump, and the doctor immediately recommended that Carol have a lumpectomy to remove it for pathology. The lump was only three millimeters in size, so the best option was to remove the whole thing rather than try to obtain a tissue sample.
After the lump and two nearby lymph nodes were removed and pathology performed, there was good news and bad news. Doctors told Carol that the margins around the lump were clear, which meant that there were no cancer cells surrounding it. The bad news was that the lump was cancerous.
The next step was an Oncotype DX test. This is a genomic test that analyzes the activity of a group of genes that can affect how a cancer is likely to behave and respond to treatment. The Oncotype DX is used in two ways: to help doctors figure out a woman’s risk of early-stage, estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer coming back (recurrence), as well as how likely she is to benefit from chemotherapy after breast cancer surgery; and to help doctors figure out a woman’s risk of DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) coming back (recurrence) and/or the risk of a new invasive cancer developing in the same breast, as well as how likely she is to benefit from radiation therapy after DCIS surgery. Carol’s doctors told her that the results showed that the type of cancer she had was aggressive, and there was a 35-40% chance of recurrence. They wanted her to begin radiation and chemotherapy treatments to eliminate any wayward cancer cells that might be somewhere in her body, and to lower the chance of recurrence.
Carol began the process with two radiation treatments, followed by six chemo treatments. The chemo was then followed by twenty more radiation treatments. Carol says that fortunately, she didn’t experience very severe side effects from the treatments, aside from hair loss and some nausea. She handled the hair loss with grace; when her hair began falling out in clumps, she called Mendy’s Salon and said, “Okay, we gotta do something!” She went ahead and let Mendy shave her head completely, and wore scarves sometimes when she went out.
Carol credits the martial arts practice of Tai Chi for helping her deal with the side effects of the cancer treatments. She explained that Tai Chi is misunderstood by many people who just associate it with karate and other martial arts. Tai Chi is more of a meditative practice that helps you to relax and focus on the good energy in your body.
Carol is now just over a year out from ringing the bell after her final cancer treatment. She says she feels well, aside from a little apprehension about her upcoming shoulder replacement surgery (which has nothing to do with her breast cancer, she is quick to point out!). The main thing that Carol wants everyone to know – in fact, what she asked that this article be mostly about – is that early detection of breast cancer saves lives. Her story, beginning with her self exams, followed by her annual mammogram, is a perfect example of how early detection is the key to breast cancer recovery. Although the lump that the doctors initially called a “suspicious spot” in Carol’s breast was so small that she wasn’t able to feel it yet, she was and still is diligent about self exams to check for abnormalities between mammograms. Many times, a change in breast tissue that a woman notices herself is the reason she may choose to consult a physician and schedule a mammogram. Carol says that if her lump had not been found by mammogram in its early stages, her outcome could have been, and most likely would have been, much different. Her advice to all women is to be aware of changes in your body – you know your own body better than anyone! And, get a mammogram as often as your doctor recommends; don’t let all the everyday madness keep you from a 15-minute appointment that could literally save your life!
by Emma McWilliams