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Pam Kohl, executive director of Triangle Susan G. Komen, fights breast cancer again

Posted November 17

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— Pam Kohl is a very public face in the Triangle in the fight against breast cancer.  

As the executive director of the Susan G. Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast chapter, she practices what she preaches, especially when it comes to regular screenings.

“I went for my annual mammogram because that’s what I do in October for breast cancer awareness month,” Kohl said

Because of her job, Kohl knows more than the average person about what happens when that mammogram turns into a breast cancer diagnosis. That knowledge can be a blessing and a curse.

“Good news is, I know a lot, and the bad news is, I know a lot,” she said.

Just two weeks ago, right after that October mammogram, Kohl, 64, was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time.

“I know enough that a second diagnosis is not a great thing. It’s not a death sentence either,” she said. “I know just enough to be hopeful and just enough to be scared.”

When Kohl was first diagnosed, it was caught early and never reached her lymph nodes. She had radiation, and did not need surgery or chemotherapy.

Having been cancer-free for 7 years, she said the new diagnosis came as a surprise.

“I was so optimistic, so it’s sort of like, really? I thought we took care of it,” Kohl said.

She said this time, hearing she has breast cancer weighs more heavily.

“I mean, the first thing is, ‘How am I going to tell my husband?’” she said. “That’s the hardest and then how am I going to tell my children who are 23 and 26. It’s not like they’re 10, but in some ways, it’s scarier for them.”

According to Susan G. Komen, about 5 percent of women will get a second breast cancer diagnosis within 8 years of their initial diagnosis.

Kohl is now one of those statistics, a public face while in a personal battle.

“And because of my work, good grief, aren’t I lucky that my doctor knows me. It can also make it hard to be vulnerable because they are used to seeing me in a public role and being optimistic and trying to inspire other survivors.”

Kohl has a scheduled mastectomy on Dec. 5. Part of her fear is that she won't know until then what type of cancer she has, if it is a recurrence of what she had before or a different type.

She said she is fortunate to be in the Triangle with the researchers and medical providers, and because of her job, she knows that isn’t the case everywhere.

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