One Woman’s Race for the Cure

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Kelly Feinberg was just 29 years old when she found out she had breast cancer — two weeks before her wedding. She got married on a Sunday, had surgery on Wednesday and went on her honeymoon the next Sunday. She has no family history, but had found a suspicious lump on her left side. So, she asked her friend, who is an oncology nurse, to look at it. “I said, ‘You’re going to think this is so weird, but feel this. It doesn’t feel right to me,’” she said. Her friend did not think the lump felt like cancer, but told Feinberg to get it checked out anyway. Despite her young age and no genetic connection, Feinberg’s doctor was smart enough to take a closer look, even if he was confounded that someone so young could have breast cancer. “My doctor was wonderful,” Feinberg said. “I’m just so fortunate because with a lot of women it’s like ‘Oh, just come see me in six months’ or ‘you’re too young to worry about this.’ He never did that to me.” The doctors found a small malignant mass on her right side, and the cancer was starting to get into her lymph nodes. She was diagnosed with stage 2 bilateral breast cancer. “I felt like [the doctor] was going to tell me I had breast cancer, so I was prepared for that,” Feinberg said. “After she said that we could beat it, I just felt like it’s just something you have to go through, and I kind of tried to keep a positive attitude and my sense of humor through things.” Finding out her diagnosis just weeks before her wedding caused everyone to stop stressing over all the wedding details. “Everyone just kind of focused on what was really important, and all the silly things about who was going to sit next to who stuff kind of fell away,” she said. After she and her husband returned from their Alaskan cruise honeymoon, she began chemotherapy, and her husband began law school. She opted to have a course of chemo every two weeks, followed by a course of radiation. That was eight years ago, and today, Feinberg is healthy and giving back to the breast cancer community. “A lot of good things have come out of my cancer diagnosis, and I haven’t had any recurrences, so I’ve been very fortunate to get the care that I needed so that I’m here today,” she said. Now Feinberg has two daughters; she had problems getting pregnant with her first daughter, but her second was conceived naturally. “That’s kind of a success story, too,” she said. “Fertility is such an issue when you’re so young and diagnosed, but we were so lucky.” When she was diagnosed, Feinberg was working for the senate majority leader in the legislature. When she walked in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, she met the mid-Michigan Executive Director Chris Pearson, who later encouraged Feinberg to apply for a position with the Komen 3-Day. “I did it, thought it was wonderful, and I did the sessions and helped recruit other walkers to go just by sharing my experience,” she said. After working for the 3-Day for five years, Feinberg began her current job as mission programs manager for Komen mid-Michigan in July 2010. “It’s wonderful because I have the legislative background for the policy,” she said. “I know Komen very well from being a huge fan of this for a long time, so I just love it.” Feinberg now helps organize Komen mid-Michigan’s grant programs. Of all the fundraising the non-profit does, 75 percent of the net profits go back to the community for education, screening, treatment and support programs. The other 25 percent supports national breast cancer research. In the fall, Komen mid-Michigan invested more than $324,000 to local programs, and it will invest another $106,000 to two new grantees in April. One of the new grantees is Eastern Michigan University’s Healthy Asian Americans Project. Asian American women have the lowest breast cancer screening rates and higher mortality rates due to late detection compared to all other ethnic groups. The project aims to deliver language specific breast health information, provide breast exams and facilitate care for 300 Asian American women. The other new grantee is Women’s Wellness Leaders, a program that aims to inspire a community of breast cancer survivor leaders that will nurture and support a culture of wellness in Southeast Michigan. Komen mid-Michigan gave grants to nine programs for 2010-2011, including the Sparrow Foundation’s Healthy Steps Therapeutic Exercise Class and the MSU Department of Surgery Comprehensive Breast Health Clinic. Feinberg is also working on a community profile of Jackson. Every two years, Komen looks at statistics to find out which area has the greatest need. “There’s increased rates of mortality for breast cancer survivors and increased incidents in Jackson,” she said. All the work Komen does is to help fill unmet community needs for women and to grant programs to meet those needs. “I really feel that it’s important work, and it’s really inspiring when you meet some of these survivors. They’re still working a positive path through life,” Feinberg said. Komen Mid-Michigan’s next fundraiser is the ninth annual Race for the Cure on Sunday, April 17 in Lansing. More than 7,000 walkers and runners are expected to participate in the 5k. “You know, breast cancer diagnosis is usually not fatal, and 98 percent of the women who get breast cancer are survivors after five years,” Feinberg said. “It’s really an interesting opportunity to learn more about yourself and to give back. I love my job because I really feel like I’m making a difference in this community, and it’s really neat to see grant programs get funded.”
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Tags: Komen Mid-Michigan, race for the cure