Kohl: Work with Komen provides ‘courage and determination’ for her cancer fight
Almost two years after she learned that her breast cancer had come back, Pam Kohl, executive director of Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast, started a new treatment routine. The latest: 20 rounds of radiation over four weeks.
“It’s never over. I’m going to be in some sort of treatment forever, and I understand that,” she said.
Kohl is one of the “forever fighters,” those with metastatic breast cancer, a cancer that has spread throughout the body and cannot be cured.
Her doctors tell her radiation is the best way to shrink the two tumors in her chest or at least stop them from growing. She also hopes it will alleviate her daily fevers.
“No one is going to say or promise you that radiation is going to prolong your life, because we don’t know that, but there are some reasons to consider it,” she said.
Radiation is painless. The side-effects can come later, even weeks later. With radiation targeted at the middle of Kohl’s chest, a sore throat, fatigue and perhaps some skin irritation are her biggest concerns.
She lies very still, in a room all by herself, listening to Bruce Springsteen to calm her nerves. The treatment is done in minutes.
Dr. Rachel Blitzblau, a Duke University radiation oncologist, told Kohl, “We expect that the tumor will start to react as we’re treating, but we won’t see the full effect of the radiation even for a number of weeks until after we’re done.”
In her work as head of the local Susan G. Komen group, Kohl works every day with people who are dealing with the anxiety of cancer, just like she does.
“My work gives me courage and determination, and that’s what it takes,” she said.
Kohl is willing to share her journey so that others can see that she is supportive, honest and transparent, optimistic yet realistic and, at times, scared.
“For me personally, one of the bold steps is to let people know it’s hard,” she said. “That’s not always easy for me to let people know that I’m struggling a little bit.”
At the end of 20 rounds of radiation, Kohl’s tumors were “inactive,” so her overall report was good. She still has fevers.
Kohl said as long as she can continue with treatments, she keeps hoping that research going on now will one day save her life.