Finding her stride: Altoona mom shares breast cancer survival story, chairs upcoming walk to benefit local counties

Despite receiving a normal result for her annual mammogram in 2010, further examination revealed a different outcome for Altoona mom of three Becky Knott.

“When I went for my yearly mammogram the technician doing the mammogram told me she thought my left breast felt firmer and looked a little pinker than the right breast,” Knott, 50, said in an email. “The mammogram was normal but she hand wrote a note on the report asking the doctor to take another look. My doctor did another exam and sent me to see a surgeon as a precaution. The surgeon wanted to do a biopsy of the tissue, as a precaution. The biopsy was positive and I had breast cancer.”

Knott, a special education teacher for the Altoona Area School District, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer on Jan. 29, 2010.

“I will never forget how hard it was when I had to tell my family I had cancer,” said Knott, who is married to husband, Jeff, and has children, Emily, 23, Jessica, 21 and Ryan, 18.

In addition to receiving chemotherapy, Knott underwent a mastectomy, radiation and a year-long Herceptin treatment, she said.

“I have been cancer free for three years and feel I am very lucky to still be alive,” she said. “My family kept and still keeps me going. My husband is my rock. He attended every chemotherapy treatment with me and still attends all my follow-up appointments with me. My family has always been there for me and I couldn’t have done it without them. My children were always there to help with whatever was needed. Throughout my treatments I was also blessed to have my extended family, friends, and coworkers show me their support. They all kept me going with the things they did for my family. … Cancer changes your life forever. Cancer doesn’t just change the life of an individual, it changes the life of the whole family and I feel blessed to have the support I continue to have.”

Knott has given her own support to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Blair County Walk.

She became a walker in 2010 and the next year became a committee member. This year she is the walk’s Honorary Chairperson Survivor.

“It is our 14th annual year for the walk. We’re so thrilled,” said Lisa Koncz, an income development specialist for the American Cancer Society of Blair County. “This is our second year at Peoples Natural Gas Field. We are thrilled to be back there. It was a great venue for us last year … and there’s definitely potential room to grow and develop our walk, which we hope to do so.”

In the meantime, a couple goals for this year are set.

“Last year we saw about 980 participants attend the walk so this year we’re really excited, we’re hoping to beat the 1,000 mark. … just to celebrate survivorship, celebrate those who are battling breast cancer, and then you get a lot of information about breast cancer and so forth and our key naturally is always to promote early detection.”

Last year’s walk raised more than $159,000, according to a society press release.

“This year our goal is to raise over $165,000,” event chairwoman Janine Henahan said in the release. “We hope the community will consider that in just a few hours they will help bring a lifetime of change for the many people facing a breast cancer diagnosis this year.”

Last year’s walk had 86 registered survivors, Koncz said.

“We know that there will be more. … I would love to see us break the 100 mark for survivors,” she said. “And I would love all survivors to know that we just want to have them there. They do not need to actually physically walk the walk if they are unable to, but just to have them there so that we can celebrate their accomplishments and their journey and support them as well. Them and their families.”

UPMC Altoona is the 2013 survivor sponsor, and it will sponsor all survivor activities for the walk, Koncz said.

The funds raised from the walk go to breast cancer research and for programs and services in Blair and surrounding counties, Koncz said.

“And I’m very proud of the American Cancer Society with its research accomplishments because through our donor dollars from folks like those in Blair County we were able to have scientists discover Tamoxifen and Herceptin which are two really key, valuable treatments for women and men going through breast cancer. And there are men who are diagnosed with breast cancer too. I believe 2 percent of all diagnosis are men,” Koncz said.

Another way to help is through enrolling in the American Cancer Society’s third Cancer Prevention Study (CPS-3). Enrollment will take place in Altoona at the Station Medical Center noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on the day of the walk, lower-level locker rooms, Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to honor those we love who have been touched by this disease by enrolling in this very worthwhile study that plays such a significant part of cancer research,” Koncz said.

For Knott, ultimately the initiative and walk give her a chance to not just stride but strive for a cure.

“The walk makes me feel so happy knowing I am a survivor,” she said. “I feel blessed knowing I am part of finding a cure and love the opportunity to be involved. But, more importantly being a part of Making Strides and the walk each year allows me to be a part of a wonderful cause to raise money to find a cure for breast cancer so no one has to go through the life changing experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.