Cabrini community affected by breast cancer

By Megan Kutulis Brian Loschiavo
October 1, 2009

Shannon Keough

Most 36 year olds are juggling a family and a career, while still trying to maintain an active social life. At 36, Laura Renz was just beginning her nine-year battle with breast cancer.

“I never thought breast cancer would hit so close to home, and it did,” Rachael Renz, junior business administration and communication major and niece of Laura Renz, said. “It’s hard losing someone who is such a big part of your family. She always saw the good in everyone and was a caring individual.”

On Jan. 4, 2009, at age 45, Laura Renz lost her battle to breast cancer, leaving behind her three children, high school sweetheart and many loving family members.

Renz was just one of the 2.5 million women in the United States with a history of breast cancer. Roughly 180,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone. Although this number has decreased over the past decade due to early detection and advances in treatment, there is still a crucial need to raise awareness for the cause.

“College students across the country need be taking the appropriate steps in prevention and detection, which is the best awareness you can have,” Dr. David Dunbar, associate professor of biology, said.

Cabrini and other schools across the country have made a point to stress self-examination and early detection, but Dunbar points out other important factors in prevention.

“Although breast cancer is something that you can be predisposed to, you aren’t necessarily going to get the disease. Environmental factors play a big role in determining your risk,” Dunbar said.

Dr. Melissa Terlecki, associate professor of psychology, has a history of breast cancer in her family. Terlecki’s grandmother and her grandmother’s sister both underwent mastectomies, and her mother has already had a biopsy. Although Terlecki has never been diagnosed, she was told that environmental factors would play a significant role in her likelihood of being diagnosed.

“Because it runs in my maternal family, I was told that I would be at high risk. Eating right, exercising and not smoking would lower my risk, but wouldn’t prevent the genetic effects,” Terlecki said.

Renz and her family have helped to raise awareness for breast cancer since her aunt’s diagnosis in 2000. Most recently, on Mother’s Day in 2009, “Laura’s Team” participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Rachael raised $2,500 for the cause, and the family raised $3,000 total.

“It’s really nice to do it as a family, to walk and be together. It’s inspirational. They have women there who have beat breast cancer, and they get to wear a different color shirt than everyone else, it’s really a touching experience,” Renz said.

Renz and other families walking for the cure are making significant strides. According to Dunbar, chemotherapy treatments have become more effective in combating the disease.

“Chemotherapy used to be like carpet-bombing. It used to attack your whole body, even targeting some of the ‘good stuff’. In recent years, chemo has become more like smart-bombing, targeting the affected areas,” Dunbar said.

In the last 15 years, society has gained a great deal of knowledge and understanding about the disease. Dunbar foresees that, in the next few years, cancer will be kept in check to the point where the disease is no longer terminal, but will be a chronic disease that can easily be controlled by medications.

“Every penny goes to research. Hopefully one day we’ll find a cure,” Renz said.

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Megan Kutulis Brian Loschiavo

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