Einstein Employees Speak at American Cancer Society Fundraiser
Two Einstein employees with close ties to the cancer community were the featured speakers during the opening ceremony at Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fundraiser held recently in Fort Washington, Pa.
Kelly Romano, director of Infection Control and Patient Safety at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, as well as a two-time breast cancer survivor, delivered an inspiring speech about experiencing, learning from, and overcoming breast cancer. Angie Nicholas, MD, vice president, Medical Affairs, spoke about her unique connection to cancer patients as a family medicine physician, as well as her personal link to the disease as a caregiver.
Relay for Life events, which are major fundraisers for the ACS, feature teams taking turns walking around a track or designated path for six to 24 hours. Each team is asked to be represented on the track at all times throughout the event, signifying that cancer never sleeps. Team members also set up themed campsites onsite and participate in a variety of fundraising activities when not on the track.
Romano, who has worked at Einstein since 2007, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 at age 32. The diagnosis and subsequent weeks of constant appointments, tests and procedures were an overwhelming whirlwind for Romano, who at the time was a young mother to a 2-year-old son. But with the help of a highly supportive family and an excellent cancer-care team, Romano eventually settled into her new reality.
Romano found it difficult, however, to connect with other women who were having a similar experience with breast cancer. She joined support groups, but often found that they were made up of older women. Because of her young age, Romano faced a specific set of challenges and practical concerns related to her health, like returning to work and making decisions related to fertility and family planning.
Romano soon found the Young Survival Coalition, an organization that offers a variety of resources, connections and outreach to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. The YSC provided a big boost for Romano, who took up biking, got more physically active, and even formed a local chapter of the YSC in Montgomery County.
Facing a Second Fight With Breast Cancer
“There is no better feeling than cycling down a quiet road with your thoughts and good friends,” reflects Romano. “Witnessing the beauty in nature and seeing new things on each trip.”
In December 2017, after an annual MRI screening as part of her post-cancer care plan, Romano unexpectedly received a second primary diagnosis of breast cancer. While the surprising news was difficult to hear, Romano felt much better prepared—mentally and physically—to face her second fight with the disease. She also felt lucky to have been, for the second time, diagnosed in the early stage of the cancer.
Today, in addition to being a mom, a wife, a daughter, a professional, a volunteer and an athlete, Romano is embracing her newest role as an optimist, showing other cancer survivors that there is indeed hope for everyone. That new role was on full display at Relay, where Romano’s remarks inspired the cancer survivors in attendance to stay strong and determined, and to enjoy living in the moment.
“I am truly lucky and blessed in my life,” Romano told the crowd. “I am a two-time cancer survivor.”
Dr. Nicholas addressed the crowd after Romano, opening her speech by highlighting a lesser-known role of family practice physicians—that of cancer-care provider.
While most people associate cancer care and treatment mainly with oncology specialists, Dr. Nicholas, like many other family physicians, sees patients every day who are directly or indirectly affected by cancer. She assesses risk factors, examines family histories, scrutinizes health complaints, and sometimes faces the difficult task of delivering a cancer diagnosis.
A Very Personal Tie
For patients who are diagnosed with cancer, Dr. Nicholas plays a critical role in establishing support systems, scheduling appointments, and arranging all necessary treatment. And as patients are living longer, family medicine doctors are more involved than ever in cancer survivorship.
“At the end of the day, cancer patients come back to their family doctor,” said Dr. Nicholas.
Dr. Nicholas also has a very personal tie to cancer, as her husband, John, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in November 2013. She and John are active members of Fight Colorectal Cancer, an advocacy and research group that leads efforts in the scientific community as well as in Washington, D.C., to advance treatment, public awareness and legal policy around colorectal cancer.
As a physician and as a caregiver, Dr. Nicholas has experienced firsthand the effects of a cancer diagnosis. Though that experience, she has also recognized the immense value of services and events—like Relay for Life—offered by the ACS, which she sees as a top resource for cancer patients.