Aggressive treatment for inflammatory breast cancer
Strong family bonds carried them through their experiences. They all live in Hampton Bays and have coached another through each surgery at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and subsequent treatment.
Karen Connolly, the oldest of the sisters, was diagnosed first. Her outlook was initially bleak. In 1993, she was notified that she had Stage IV inflammatory breast cancer, which accounts for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers. She was expected to live 21 months post-diagnosis.
In disbelief, Ms. Connolly sought a second opinion with Dr. Kostroff. She called it the best decision she ever made.
"I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and if I didn't see Dr. Kostroff, I wouldn't be here today," she said as she held back tears. "I could've been your wife, your daughter, your mother or your sister. I feel the reason for my diagnosis was to pave the way for the rest of my family and anyone else who is going through this."
Ms. Connolly was 32 years old at the time. She was treated for mastitis after suffering from a miscarriage. Mastitis is inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. She endured two weeks of antibiotics but with no change.
It was cancer.
Dr. Kostroff recommended an aggressive plan that included high-dose chemotherapy, a radical mastectomy, as well as an experimental stem cell transplant, radiation and Tamoxifen - the oldest and most-prescribed selective estrogen receptor modulator that high-risk breast cancer patients receive.
"She underwent bone marrow/stem cell transplant, which is no longer done since breast cancer treatment has evolved," Dr. Kostroff said. "We are now offering what is the least toxic with the most effect."
Ms. Connolly, now director of Southampton's Chamber of Commerce, was declared cancer-free in 1993.