Living Well

“You Have Cancer” Were Words I Never Thought I Would Hear

Kristin Fletcher
“You Have Cancer” Were Words I Never Thought I Would Hear

Valerie Leclercq was born and raised in France. She moved to California in the early 90s where she met her partner of 17 years, who is from New Orleans. They relocated to Las Vegas in 2003 where Valerie opened her private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor. They returned to New Orleans in December of 2016 to be closer to family and friends.  Valerie loves her work and life in New Orleans, and she never thought that she would experience cancer. That changed last fall.

“I was sleeping in the middle of the night, and I felt a higher power telling me to feel my right breast,” Valerie says. “I felt a huge lump. It was hard at the touch and felt like cement.” The following morning, Valerie called Dr. Donna Waters, her Gynecologist at Touro for assistance. Dr. Waters immediately scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound. Valerie never once thought it would be cancer.  “I thought it might have been a cyst,” recalls Valerie. Following her mammogram, a biopsy was ordered immediately.

On November 14, 2017, Valerie’s life changed completely. Valerie was in between client appointments as she waited for the phone call to learn the results of her biopsy.  When the phone rang, she asked the physician directly if she had cancer and she replied yes. Valerie was diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer, which is a more aggressive form of breast cancer. HER2-positive is a cancer that contains a certain protein that promotes cancer cell growth. Normal HER2 proteins regulate proper breast cell growth but become HER2-positive when there is an overproduction of HER2 cells.

Constant Reassurance

Valerie was referred to Touro Breast Surgical Oncologist, Dr. John Colfry. “Some of my friends in the medical field told me that Dr. Colfry was one of the best surgeons in the city,” says Valerie. This provided Valerie with a sense of reassurance before her first appointment. “Dr. Colfry and the staff were truly amazing. I felt right away that it was a good fit,” says Valerie. “He was kind, genuine, sincere and very knowledgeable.”

During her visit, Valerie was informed that she had invasive breast cancer, which means the cancer had spread to outside the duct and into the normal tissue inside the breast. “I was told that everything was going to be okay,” says Valerie. “Dr. Colfry told me that I would have to start chemotherapy immediately. The treatment plan was to reduce and eradicate the size of the tumor through neoadjuvant chemotherapy and then to consider my surgery options.”

Dr. Colfry and Valerie

Valerie began chemotherapy on December 1. She had six rounds of chemotherapy every three weeks.  “I was devastated to lose my hair, but I knew the chemotherapy had to be done,” says Valerie.  Through regular appointments with Dr. Colfry, Valerie reviewed her options of having a lumpectomy or a bilateral mastectomy.  Dr. Colfry recommended a double mastectomy as the best option for her cancer. “No radiation would be needed with a double mastectomy,” says Valerie.

On May 9, Valerie underwent a bilateral nipple-sparing mastectomy and breast reconstruction. “I do not regret anything,” says Valerie. “However, the decision was hard to make.” Valerie’s cancer is currently in remission, and she visits Dr. Colfry every month for follow-up care. “He is a fantastic doctor and an amazing human being. His nurse Terri is awesome as well. She will talk to you at any time of the day if you have a question,” she says. “I am glad to have listened and trusted my surgeon.”

Click here to learn more about Touro’s Breast Cancer Surgery Program.