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Patient Stories

Donna Bolkcom's Story

"Many people put so much effort into exercising and eating well but let some of the most important things—like regular cancer screening—slip by. And early detection is so crucial to improving the chance of survival."

donna-bolkcom.jpgDonna Bolkcom, a native of Texas, and her husband Thomas moved to New York as newlyweds in 1969. He pursued a successful career on Wall Street while she worked in a related financial area. They raised two sons on the Upper East Side. After her husband died in 2000, Donna continued her lifelong interest in the arts and began gardening at the Conservatory Garden in Central Park.

In September 2005, Donna was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a routine mammogram indicated some suspicious micro calcifications, surgery revealed a tumor and an aggressive form of breast cancer. "I had been very conscientious about taking care of myself. Like many women who hear this diagnosis, I had a sense of disbelief that I'd become a statistic and was now facing a serious health crisis. As a single parent, telling my sons that I had cancer was a horrible moment. Thankfully, I could say that my cancer had been discovered at an early stage because of regular mammograms. I could face my cancer treatments without the burden of thinking this cancer could have been detected sooner."

After surgery, Donna followed a course of chemotherapy, plus radiation and a one-year Herceptin regimen designed to target her specific type of cancer. During this treatment, she participated in the breast cancer support group led by Marcelle Kaplan, RN at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. She completed treatment in January 2007.

"The support group was such a valuable resource. We became an amazingly bonded group sharing knowledge and helping each other through some very tough times. " Donna is a strong advocate for regular screening and ties it closely to a woman's responsibility both to herself and her loved ones.

"I think that for women over 40, mammograms should be near the top of their medical "to-do" list. Taking care of your health is something you owe not only to yourself but to your children, your spouse and everybody who cares about you."

For more information, log on to the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Cancer Centers Web site at or call: 1-877-NYP-WELL.