Judi Kitt never again will miss her yearly mammogram appointment. Life got a little busy for Judi back in 2001, and the date for her appointment passed. This was unusual for her, as she had been getting mammograms every year since her 40th birthday. “I was just really, really busy then and I forgot,” she says.
Judi was 53 at the time. Because she has dense, cystic breasts, she was having the annual tests as a precautionary measure. And for good reason. The tests often revealed cysts that needed to be aspirated and even removed. “One was the size of a golf ball,” she recalls.
So, after a two-year hiatus, Judi’s 2002 mammogram came back with an unexpected finding: “I had one very tiny lump that turned out to be Stage I breast cancer.”
That lump was removed and she underwent a five-week course of radiation, under the direction of Florian Ploch, M.D., medical director of the NorthBay Cancer Center’s radiation oncology department. “I felt I was in very good hands. The nurses there were so kind and I’ve never seen or met a group of people who offered such excellent care.”
Judi completed treatment and went on about her life, enjoying time with her husband and friends in their new community at Trilogy in Rio Vista. All follow-up visits with James Long, M.D., NorthBay Cancer Center medical director of medical oncology, came back “A-OK.”
When Judi underwent her regular test in 2005, she wasn’t expecting anything unusual. But, the radiologist immediately saw something. “She asked me if I could feel a lump and I couldn’t.” Judi just assumed it would be a cyst, and the lump was biopsied.
When she returned to hear the test results, she learned that the lump was cancerous. She was offered a choice: another lumpectomy, or a mastectomy. “It took me about three minutes to determine I did not want to die of breast cancer,” she recalls. “I opted for the mastectomy. I wanted it out of my body; I wanted it gone.”
That was a very good choice, Judi was told after the surgery. Surgeons actually found three large lumps, “all full of cancer. And they found cancer in seven of 17 lymph nodes including one in my armpit. It was Stage III cancer.”
This time, Judi underwent four-and-a-half months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation. “They said I did very well, remarkably well, during the treatment, and the nurses at the NorthBay Cancer Center were on top of it all the time.”
Today, four years later, Judi is cancer- free, and “feeling great, wonderful. I’m enjoying life and retirement with my husband, and I feel so fortunate to be here.”
After her experience, Judi offers advice to other women: “Know your body. Take good care of it. Don’t smoke or drink, and absolutely get a mammogram every year.”