If Colleen Kotras had any fear that she would be alone on her cancer journey after being diagnosed in August 2013, she need not have worried. Her husband, Neil, instinctively knew that the loss of her hair would be a particularly emotional blow to Colleen. To demonstrate that “we’re in this together, babe,” he shaved his head. It may seem like a small sacrifice but his act spoke volumes about a man, a marriage and a family.

Married in 2009, Colleen and Neil had three children, Nathan, Annie and Oliver in three years. Busy raising her children, Colleen had no time to for a diagnosis of breast cancer but that is what happened shortly after the birth of her third child.

Fortunately, her obstetrician referred her to Michael Schultz, MD, medical director of the Breast Center at UM St. Joseph Medical Center. Here Colleen found the love, support and excellent medical care that she needed. “Any diagnosis of breast cancer is devastating but for a young woman with three small children, this news is acutely traumatic,” says Dr. Schultz. “It was our job to reassure Colleen that we could, indeed, successfully treat her disease and send her on her way.”

“It is so frightening to learn that you have breast cancer and that you will have to go through some harrowing times before you are well,” adds Colleen. “It is vital to be surrounded by people who love and care about you. Not only did I receive this from my family but everyone at The Cancer Institute at St. Joe’s made me feel that their job was to cure me in body and spirit.”

Colleen’s mother, Geri Smythe, and her friends wanted to do something to help, particularly for women who, when facing the same disease, might not have the family support that surrounded Colleen. In July 2014, they held a golf tournament at Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix, MD to raise funds for the Geraldine G. Schultz Endowment at the Breast Center. This endowment was established in March 2014 to fund breast cancer research as well as assist women with breast cancer find the resources they need to make their journey easier.

Finishing her last maintenance chemotherapy in February 2015, Colleen has returned to her hectic life as a wife, mother and sales representative for Stella and Dot jewelry. But she has one phrase that will serve as her guiding mantra moving forward. “This experience has really puts things into perspective. I know what is and isn’t important now.”

To make a gift to support the Breast Center program and the Geraldine G. Schutlz Endowment, please fill out our donation form.

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