LaMara Martin (pictured above, left) and Lori Boyles (pictured above, right) went to high school together. As it turned out, LaMara’s brother and Lori’s sister married each other, so LaMara and Lori are practically family!
Now they face breast cancer together – each with her own experience, and both sharing the same determined approach to tackle and beat it.
LaMara’s last mammogram indicated a mass identified as triple-negative breast cancer and she is going through chemotherapy as well as immunotherapy. LaMara and husband, Mark, are Paducah, Ky. business owners and live in Calvert City. They have daughter Maizie, son Miles, whose wife – Olivia – works with our ministry, and grandson Lake Anthony Martin.
Lori discovered a lump in her breast, which was diagnosed as HER2-positive breast cancer, and has started chemo and immunotherapy as well. Lori is a first grade teacher. She and husband, Derek, live in Reidland, Ky. and have two children, Elizabeth and Evan.
Each woman is familiar with Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital. LaMara once worked there and also delivered her first child there. Lori notes she and her family had been cared for at Lourdes Hospital over the years.
“We have always had a great experience, nothing but positive things to say,” Lori adds.
LaMara and Lori share doctors: breast surgeon Dr. Daniel Howard, MD, and oncologist Wederson Claudino, MD.
“Dr. Howard and Dr. Claudino and staff have been a blessing to me,” Lori shares. “This team of doctors and staff go over and beyond to ensure you are emotionally and medically cared for. They have been so quick to get everything started and spent a great deal of time making sure I understand everything.”
LaMara adds, “From the very first moment, I knew God placed me in the right place for care. They have both been amazing through this entire journey.”
Lori credits nurse navigator Courtney LeNeave, RN, for the suggestion to undergo genetic testing, as from it, Lori learned she won’t pass on the specific cancer gene.
As for LaMara, she experienced an increase in blood sugar levels that delayed chemo. While rare, she had developed type 1 diabetes from the immunotherapy drug. Of her five-night hospital stay, LaMara said, “You can absolutely tell that the staff actually enjoy where they work. I had the best care anyone could possibly receive during that time.”
Overall, treatment is going well for both ladies.
“The care I receive each week in the infusion center has been way above all my expectations,” LaMara says. “Every person there is truly amazing. They are so caring and compassionate. I could not imagine going anywhere else. Paducah is lucky to have this amazing cancer center, and even luckier to have the staff that they have!”
“From the very first interaction I had with Lourdes staff, I have felt confident that I’m where I need to be, and so thankful I do not have to travel hundreds of miles to receive the most current and cutting-edge treatment,” she says. “The staff have been so helpful, knowledgeable and kind. This means so much to a person going through this, because there are so many unknowns and it can be overwhelming.”
Each woman also recognizes the challenges of fighting breast cancer as well.
“The toughest part was having to tell my family and friends and just all the unknowns,” Lori notes.
“I was thinking I could have my treatments and carry on as normal,” LaMara admits. “I never expected to have the weakness that I have. Everyday normal activities have been difficult for me.”
At the same time, Lori shares, “The easiest part is praying to my God and placing my trust in Him, Lourdes and all the qualified, loving staff who continue to care for me.”
And LaMara adds, “I am so lucky that I have a supportive family that has taken care of the things that I no longer can.”
When it comes to battling breast cancer, encouragement is critical.
“I have a friend that went through a similar treatment plan over the last year,” LaMara shares. “She has been an inspiration to me. She gave me advice that I did not get from my doctors, and she made me a chemo bag to take weekly – very thoughtful items that you would not think of if you have never been through anything like this. I hope to be able to do the same for others going through this unimaginable diagnosis.”
Lori also appreciates the outpouring of love, prayers and support from family and friends.
“So many have shared their breast cancer journey with me and continue to help me along the way. I also pray my journey will help others.”
Lori adds, “Knowledge is power, and learning everything you can about cancer helps you in so many ways. There are also many different types of breast cancers, so joining Facebook groups that are specific to your diagnosis can be a helpful resource. Being a part of these groups can be encouraging, inspiring and help you find some answers with your type of breast cancer.”
For others, Lori offers this advice.
“I really never thought I would be diagnosed with breast cancer; no one does. If you find something that seems different or new, don’t wait! We are all busy, but we have to stop and take care of us. The quicker cancer is found, the better the treatment success. So be aware of changes in your body and follow the guidelines on going to doctor’s appointments and getting mammograms.”
LaMara also reveals what her provider had to say.
“Dr. Howard planted a word in my ear that everyone needs to adapt into everyday life: joy. Find joy in the small things in life. This has helped me keep a positive and winning attitude toward my diagnosis. I will beat this, and I will find joy in my treatment along the way!”
“’Joy’ is also the word that has stuck with me and gives me much peace, gladness not based on circumstance,” Lori points out. “My cousin had actually sent me this bible verse, and it has stuck with me ever since.”