At just 48 years old, Jen Kehm, of Peters Township, can relate to young women who are living with a breast cancer diagnosis. She is a breast cancer survivor.
When she was only 36, Kehm felt two lumps under her armpit. At the time, she did not think much of it.
“I had mononucleosis as a college student and since then, I have always had large lymph nodes, so I attributed the lumps to being the lymph nodes,” Kehm said.
A visit to her gynecologist gave her some relief when he said they were likely just cysts, but advised her to have a mammogram, her first one, and explained the test in detail to prepare her.
A few weeks later, she followed her doctor’s advice and had the mammogram, still thinking she would be fine.
The radiologist who called her days later, while she was on a beach vacation with her family, changed her mind. She had breast cancer.
“I was in complete denial,” she said. “Five years earlier, I had a basal cell carcinoma under my nose. The doctor removed it and it was gone. I wanted to think that this would be the same situation, but I knew that it wasn’t.”
Seven weeks later, Kehm had a lumpectomy, and then found out additional bad news from her surgeon. There was more cancer than was initially thought, and he recommended that she have a mastectomy.
“That is when it hit me that I had cancer, and I just started crying,” she said.
Following the mastectomy and immediate reconstruction, Kehm had eight rounds of chemotherapy. As she started the healing process, she wanted to reach other to other women who were in the same situation.
She got connected to these women through doctor’s offices, the American Cancer Society, friends’ referrals and word of mouth and in time, they began meeting regularly for morning coffee.
The coffee chats evolved into evening dinners and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 2005, Kehm’s close friend, Lisa Edmonds, suggested that Kehm have a fundraiser to raise money for young women, like Kehm, who were dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis.
Kehm took Edmonds’ suggestion and together, the two of them planned and hosted a fashion show.
“On Oct. 4, 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Foundation in support of Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation,” Kehm said, “and from Oct. 5-31, a portion of the proceeds will benefit (the organization).”
Kehm said that the Pink Ribbon Bagels are so popular that she and Panera are encouraging people to preorder their bagels.
Kehm and her foundation also are excited about bringing TLC’s Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, back to town, after his first trip in April.
Valastro will be featured during an event beginning at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23, at Soliders and Sailors Hall & Museum, located at 4141 Fifth Avenue in Oakland.
Tickets are $55-65 and are available on the foundation’s website at www.youngwomensbreastcancerfoundation.com.
“I had no idea that the foundation would evolve to where it is today,” Kehm said. “My goal is to continue to be a resource for women and to meet the needs of the community. Just as important, I would like to build on the support we already have and to be able to provide emotional support to young women who are living with a breast cancer diagnosis.”
Although the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Foundation will help women of all ages, it primarily focuses on premenopausal women, who often face a different set of challenges when faced with a breast cancer diagnosis.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or know someone who has, or for more information about the foundation, call 412-490-9808 or visit the foundation's website.