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Local patient battles breast cancer 10 years after her husband faced the same disease

10/30/2013

Janet Kopald (left) reunites with Ellen Mahoney, MD following her successful treatment of breast cancer.

Patient speaks of successful diagnosis, treatment and recovery in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Eureka, CA (October 30, 2013) – Looking at 60-year-old Eureka resident Janet Kopald today, you'd never know she had just recently finished treatment for breast cancer. With a smile on her face, she isn't afraid to talk about the disease she fought. One spring day in 2012, Kopald was moving a wire to her cochlear implant (a device used for people with severe hearing loss) across the right side of her chest when she felt a lump. She didn't immediately fear the worst but instead scheduled a doctor's appointment to get the lump checked. Following a biopsy, her diagnosis was Stage 2B breast cancer. Although her tumor was fast-growing, doctors believed it had been there for at least five years prior to discovery.

Breast cancer doesn't run in Kopald's family, but her closest loved one, Janet's husband, had been diagnosed with the disease ten years prior. While breast cancer is usually thought of as a woman's disease, it does occur in men. Fortunately Janet's husband was able to be successfully treated for his cancer and still takes medicine today to keep it from recurring.

Kopald, who moved up here five years ago from Rancho Mirage, decided to be treated locally for her disease instead of traveling out of the area. Her care – from diagnosis to treatment to recovery – was very coordinated by physicians at St. Joseph Hospital. "Janet received world-class cancer care in Eureka – the same kind of care that is available to those living in affluent areas that have world renowned medical facilities," said Dr. Ellen Mahoney, a surgeon, breast oncologist and medical director of St. Joseph Hospital's Cancer Care Program. She was just one of several local physicians who was involved in Kopald's treatment plan.

"Everyone I met during my journey, from those at physician offices to staff at St. Joseph Hospital, was helpful and kind," said Kopald. "It's amazing that people were so responsive," she added. Kopald's treatment involved surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. She finished her last round of treatment in May of this year. Her husband, who successfully battled his disease as well, helped support Kopald throughout her journey.

In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Kopald hopes she can inspire other women to make sure they are getting regularly scheduled mammograms. Even though she discovered her own lump, Kopald had been getting yearly mammograms as well. Today, she's back to doing what she loves and doesn't think of the "what-if's." "I'm feeling very well. I'm thankful for the care I received and I feel like I got better care by staying here than if I had traveled several hours out of the area to seek treatment," said Kopald.

The Cancer Program at St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial Hospital hospitals has been recognized by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons as offering the very best in cancer care and treatment. For more information, visit www.stjosepheureka.org or www.redwoodmemorial.org or call (707) 269-4242.

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