Breast cancer survivor says support serves as great medicine

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple From left, son Michael Kellar, daughter Kourtnie Lichty, mom Angela Kellar — holding grandson Dylan Maras, 15 months — daughter Ariel Kellar and husband Mike Kellar gather for a family portrait. Angela Kellar said family support was vital in her battle against cancer.

WARREN — The three most important things a breast cancer patient needs are support, support and support. Breast cancer survivor Angela Kellar said said that’s what she discovered during her family’s most traumatic year.

“I was diagnosed with Stage 2 ductal carcinoma on my birthday in 2015,” the Warren woman said.

The date was Nov. 20, 2015. Instead of celebrating with 38 candles, she began a journey of 38 treatments — eight rounds of aggressive chemotheraphy and 30 radiation treatments — after a lumpectomy and removal of lymph nodes.

It got worse.

“When I was going through chemotherapy in March, my mom (Robin Stoll of Bristolville) had a massive heart attack. She had surgery,” Kellar said. “My 17-year-old daughter (Ariel) had two lesions on her brain. One of those lesions was cancer, so she had to have surgery in April. I had to put my chemo on hold for a little bit to deal with her cancer.

“We’re all good right now,” Kellar said. “The only blessings that came out of that whole year was all of us were able to be treated, and then my oldest daughter (Kourtnie Lichty) had a baby. So my grandson was born.”

Since then, Lichty was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“My mom keeps saying God only gives us what we can handle.” Kellar paused. “He’s given us quite a bit. I said I don’t know if I can take anymore.”

It doesn’t matter. Family is family.

“I will always be there for them. They were definitely there for me. My husband (Michael) was very stand-up through everything. He was there all the way for me and Ariel. My son (Mike) was too. Family support was the best thing to have.

“And friends. I had friends who held a benefit for us. They offered to come clean my house. That was big. After chemo, I would come home and sleep for a week. I don’t remember the week after chemo,” she said.

“My advice for someone going through this would be make sure you have all the support you can get — family, friends, support groups, etc. I was lucky enough to have a great support system,” she said.

Kellar said hers is a rare genetic problem that leaves her at risk of ovarian, colon and breast cancer. So after she finished radiation, she underwent a full hysterectomy and has to have a colonoscopy every two years.

Doctors also want her son and two daughters — now ranging in ages from 15 to 21 — to begin routine cancer screenings between the ages of 25 and 30 rather than wait until the generally recommended ages of 40 or 50.

Kellar said she discovered the lump in her breast herself and made an appointment to have it checked out.

“Everything went so fast after that,” she said. “It was within a few weeks that I knew I had breast cancer.”

“I was scared. I lost a few close relatives to cancer so I didn’t know what to expect at first,” she said. “I went to Hope Center (for Cancer Care in Howland) and they were able to explain to me what type of cancer I had.

“They also said it was going to take a lot out of me,” she said. “It did take a lot out of me. I still don’t physically feel the same.”

After her lumpectomy, Kellar went in for a round of chemotherapy every other week until completing eight treatments. Within two weeks, she began radiation treatments five days a week for six weeks.

“You don’t want to get out of bed. If you do, you feel sick,” she said of chemotherapy. “Even with radiation, it doesn’t make you nauseous sick like chemo, but it wipes you out. I would come home and sleep for hours.”

She said she still tires easily. “Even having my grandson five to six hours a day, I’m wiped out. I shouldn’t be like that.”

Next month will mark two years since her diagnosis. She wants other breast cancer patients to know that even lacking her full stamina, things are going well.

“As long as there is the support there, you can do it,” Kellar said. “It’s scary. It’s scary to hear you have any type of cancer. Just be strong. It can be done.”