Breast cancer survivor shares her journey


By Melanie Speicher

[email protected]

JACKSON CENTER — Kara Bruskotter calls her journey with breast cancer an open book that she’s willing to share with everyone. And she hopes both men and women will read about her journey and then make some decisions about their own health.

Bruskotter is a family nurse practitioner with Wilson Health’s Jackson Center Family Practice. On the day she received the call two years ago about getting the job with the practice, she also received a call that she had breast cancer.

“My son was 11 months old,” said Bruskotter. “I was tested for the BRCA (breast cancer) gene and found out I had it when I was pregnant with my son in January 2020.”

Because her mom, Pam DeVelvis, is a breast cancer survivor — she had cancer at 42 — she was tested for the BRCA gene. After her mom tested positive for the gene, so both Bruskotter and her sister had genetic testing for it. Bruskotter tested positive, while her sister tested negative for the gene.

The BRCA genes produce proteins that help repair damaged DNA. Each person — men and women — has two copies of the gene, one from their mother and a second from their father. For some reason, the gene can mutate and that can lead to the development of cancer.

She was 30 years old at the time. She had found no lumps or bumps in her breast. There were no symptoms that she might have breast cancer. After her son was born, she had a mammogram because of the positive BRCA gene test.

The mammogram found a mass in her breast.

“We knew where the cancer was but the doctor couldn’t feel where the mass was,” she said.

After her diagnosis, Bruskotter had a double mastectomy. She underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy, followed by 25 rounds of radiation.

“Everything that I’ve done (since her diagnosis) was my decision,” said Bruskotter. “After the mastectomy, they found the lymph nodes were infected with cancer. That’s why chemo and radiation were recommended.

“Had it (cancer) not spread to my lymph nodes, I wouldn’t have had chemo and radiation.”

During her chemo treatments, she was supposed to have one treatment every other week for four months. It took her five months to complete as she had a couple of setbacks due to infections.

After the chemo treatments were complete, she then had surgery for her breast implants. She then had to wait until she healed from the surgery before she could begin the radiation treatments.

“The treatments went from April to June. I had five treatments a week for five weeks,” she said. “I would come into work in the morning and then drive to Columbus for the treatment, which lasted 5 minutes.”

Bruskotter said the daily travel to Columbus was the hardest part of her cancer journey. Once or twice a week a family member or friend would take her to Columbus. On the other days, she drove herself.

“It was a blessing to have family and friends help me out,” she said. “I was exhausted after the treatments.”

She and her husband, Brad, have two children, Everly, 4, and Griffin, 3. Both of them, she said, have the potential to have the BRCA gene.

“We’re being proactive and are making sure we’re safe,” said Bruskotter.

With the future ahead of her, Bruskotter said she is more focused on her health than she was before.

“I look at the ingredients on the products we buy,” said Bruskotter, to make sure there’s nothing there that might cause future health issues for her and her family.

Bruskotter said the couple’s family, including her mom and dad, Pam and Deron DeVelvis, and the community support she received during her treatment was amazing.

“After chemo treatments, family or friends would bring meals for us. People lined up to help,” she said.

“My husband became a husband and wife and was so supportive. He became a mom/dad and helped with the kids, giving them baths and putting them to bed.”

The community also held a fundraiser to help the family during her treatments as she had to work part-time instead of full-time.

“I’m thankful for Wilson Health for allowing me to work part-time while undergoing treatment,” she said.

The paths Bruskotter and her mom took in their cancer journeys were the same.

“My mom found a lump/mass on her breast,” she said. “Mom went through the same thing I did.”

Years later her mom had the option to be tested for the BRCA gene. Since she was a cancer survivor, she decided to be tested and the positive gene was found. That’s when both Bruskotter and her sister were tested.

“It’s a pretty expensive test,” she said. “Since my mom tested positive for it, insurance would pay for the test for my sister and I.”

Bruskotter’s advice to other women who are considering having a mammogram is to have one.

“Had I not gotten it when I did, I don’t know if I’d be here today. It saved my life,” said Bruskotter.

But, she added, it’s always the patient’s choice on whether to have a mammogram or not.

“Knowing your family history can be vital for your future. If you’re unsure about anything, ask questions,” she said.

No posts to display