MIAMI COUNTY — With the approach of the October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a local survivor shared how being proactive about health screenings and awareness of risk factors helped brace her and detect her breast cancer diagnosis early.
For Robin Hetzler of Piqua, family genes played a big factor in her future.
“I’m the 11th consecutive generation on my mother’s side to get diagnosed (with breast cancer),” Hetzler said.
She was aware from an early age that this diagnosis was a possibility for her, so she was proactive on making sure she was up-to-date on her screenings.
Even with her preparations, she was not truly ready for it.
“You’re never prepared,” said Hetzler, a lifelong resident and community member in Miami County.
Hetzler was able to get an early detection for her diagnosis, after which she underwent treatment and went into remission.
“We’re almost on the nine-year mark,” Hetzler said.
After receiving her diagnosis, Hetzler also underwent gene testing to confirm what she suspected. Hetzler found that she was positive for a BRCA 1/2 gene mutation, a gene mutation that makes someone have a greatly increased risk factor for breast cancer and for women, ovarian cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives. By contrast, according to the most recent estimates, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and around 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70.
“So that’s what science has done for us. We’re able to be proactive,” Hetzler said.
Hetzler encourages people to get screenings, talk with their doctors about risk factors, and do home self-exams. The American Cancer Society encourages women of all ages to do monthly breast self-exams to check for unexpected lumps or swelling.
Hetzler has also worked in the health care field for approximately 22 years, switching departments after becoming a breast cancer survivor to connect with other patients going through similar trials.
“I was a medical surgical nurse then,” Hetzler said, referring to the time of her diagnosis. She now works as a nurse with local oncologists Dr. Mohan Nuthakki and Dr. Rajeev Kulkarni, showing patients who are worried about their own possible diagnoses that they can survive what they’re going through.
“I know it personally. I know it from being a family member of someone that has had cancer. I’ve seen the different change and the outlook of life. I know it personally from myself and then from my patients’ point of view,” Hetzler said. “You do look at things differently in a more positive way.”
Hetzler hopes to show the newly diagnosed patients she sees that “survivorship is real” and that there is hope.
“I understand the fear,” she said. “We can support each other.”
Hetzler is the mother of three sons, Joshua Wenrick, Thomas Wenrick, and Jake Hetzler, and has three grandchildren, Urijah Baker, 8; Spencer Wenrick, 6; and Tori Wenrick, 5.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336