Waves of Healing

Delia Corahua celebrates seven years of being cancer-free

Delia Corahua Headshot

Delia Corahua, 65, grew up near the Pacific Ocean, in Pisco, Peru. Her eyes light up when she talks about the salty scent of the sea air and soothing sounds of waves on the shoreline.

When Delia emigrated to the United States more than 14 years ago, she left behind the ocean and most of her family. She stayed briefly in Tennessee and Missouri, then decided to make Overland Park, Kansas, her home. Delia likes the friendly people and easygoing pace in this part of the country.

In 2010, Delia discovered another advantage to living here: The University of Kansas Cancer Center, one of only 69 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the country.

Self-exam and self-advocacy

At age 58, Delia felt a lump in her left breast and reported it to a physician at a local clinic. He assured her it was nothing to worry about. Several months later, Delia went to another healthcare facility and requested a mammogram and sonogram. Sure enough, her scans revealed a tumor.

“You’re in shock when a doctor says you have cancer. I didn’t know what to do,” Delia remembers. “My sister-in-law told me to get an appointment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.”

Delia had no idea she lived so close to a nationally recognized cancer center. She followed her sister-in-law’s advice and scheduled an appointment with breast surgeon Carol Connor, MD, (who has since retired). She referred Delia to oncologist Qamar Khan, MD.

Comprehensive care

“A cancer diagnosis is often the most stressful event of a woman’s life,” says Dr. Khan. “That’s why we have nurse navigators, nutritionists, lymphedema specialists and social workers who answer questions, solve problems and manage side effects every step of the way.”

Delia had invasive, estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer. Dr. Khan started her on chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. Once the tumor size had been reduced, Delia had surgery to remove the lump and several lymph nodes in her arm.

“The doctors and nurses were all so nice,” she says. “They helped me a lot when I was in the hospital.” The clinical team brought in an interpreter during the most challenging part of Delia’s treatment. They wanted to make sure she understood all the details of her care.

After surgery, Delia was technically cancer-free. However, Dr. Khan recommended radiation near the surgery site as an added measure of safety, plus long-term hormone therapy.

“In the past, we prescribed a daily hormone pill like Tamoxifen for just five years,” Dr. Khan explains. “But new studies suggest an ongoing risk of breast cancer recurrence up to 20 years after the first diagnosis. So today, we strongly encourage patients to take a daily hormone pill for 10 years. Then, we watch them closely for another 10 years after that.”

Survivor smarts

When Delia reflects on her cancer journey, she concedes that 2010 was difficult. “But each year since then, I’ve grown a little better, a little stronger. I take good care of myself.”

Delia encourages everyone to take good care of themselves, “Don’t be scared. Get a mammogram or sonogram. If there’s a problem, go to The University of Kansas Cancer Center. They have the best doctors. Then pray.”

Once her recovery was complete, Delia couldn’t wait to visit Peru. In summer 2011, she spent two weeks in Pisco surrounded by the warm embrace of family. And of course, she reconnected with a very special friend  ̶  the ocean.


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