Leslie explains, “I was asked to help with the luncheon by my friend, former UNC Lineberger Board of Visitors member Mary Anne Poole, who was the chair of the campaign to raise funds to start a breast cancer program at UNC. Coach Yow was serving as the honorary chair of the effort. I was very interested and volunteered to co-host the event with Elaine Sandman of Raleigh, and others.” Leslie says, “Cancer has been a part of my existence since I was a little girl. My mother died from breast cancer at the age of 36.”
The day after the luncheon, Leslie underwent a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at Rex Cancer Center.
Not long after that, John recorded a public service announcement at a Raleigh television station to increase breast cancer awareness and to honor Coach Yow. John says, “At that time, our daughters were 13 and 11, and I wanted to do anything I could to promote research to help reduce their chances of getting breast cancer.”
Two years later, in 1990, Leslie’s doctors found a lung tumor. She underwent surgery, and was prescribed tamoxifen. Then, in 1992, the tumor reappeared, and Leslie had another surgery, leaving her with one lung. She has been cancer-free ever since.
Leslie underwent genetic testing and tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. “I underwent the testing because my aunt and first cousin also had breast cancer and were tested in Boston and were found to have the BRCA1 gene. I felt that genetic testing was very important for me and for our daughters.
“Our daughters, Amy and Beth, were in their early thirties when they were tested. Amy was already living in DC and began going to a high-risk clinic at Georgetown University Hospital. Her sister, Beth, was at UNC, getting her MBA. Beth was seen by Dr. Jim Evans and tested positive for the gene; Amy is negative. We knew the UNC Clinical Cancer Genetics Program was excellent. “
In the UNC Lineberger Cancer Genetics Clinic, patients and families are seen by board-certified medical geneticists and genetic counselors that provide risk assessments, counseling and follow-up care as needed, depending on a patient’s
Leslie says, “Dr. Jim Evans, who leads the Cancer Genetics Program, was wonderful to us. He recommended testing for Beth. Beth now visits Dr. Keith Amos, a surgical oncologist with the UNC Breast Center, for a check-up every six months.”
Leslie emphasizes, “At UNC, the patients come first. Cancer is a terrible, often debilitating, disease. The way in which UNC physicians, nurses and staff work with patients and families is amazing. They mobilize as one team to support and care for those who have been diagnosed in addition to those who carry the gene. That is what appeals to us most.
“We decided to make a gift to name a cancer genetics consultation room because the work is so important to us. The level at which Dr. Evans and others are working is incredible. We feel that genetics is such an integral part of cancer, and for some cancers, plays a major role. That’s what we want to support.”