Hello, my name is Dana Kirkpatrick. I am a 13 year breast cancer survivor (diagnosed at age 31) as well as BRCA2 gene carrier. I’m a wife, a mom of two teen daughters, a certified sex therapist, and founder of the therapy office Calm Pittsburgh. My mother is also a three time breast cancer survivor.
I was diagnosed in 2009, I was being seen by my gynecologist every year and the high risk center every year so I was getting mammograms every six months. When I went for my last mammogram I was 31. They are usually quick, but mine was taking a while and they kept calling me back again and again until I was ﬁnally face to face with the radiologist where she told me I needed to call my doctor immediately and showed me how my calciﬁcations had formed a cluster. I met with a breast surgeon and he recommended getting some tests (MRI, biopsy, and gene test) in order to decide options.
The results made my surgeon and myself agree that a complete double mastectomy would be necessary as well as a meeting with a gynecological oncologist to have my ovaries removed. I then met with a plastic surgeon to
discuss my surgical options and to have her and my breast surgeon coordinate surgeries. On October 8th 2009 I had a double mastectomy with expanders put in. Unfortunately the pathology report from my mastectomy showed that my lymph nodes showed cancer which changed my stage from 1 to 2. On November 8th 2009 I had to go back in for a lymph node dissection.In November 2009 I met with my oncologist for the ﬁrst time where she discussed treatment options. The verdict was chemotherapy with taxotere, and cytoxan. I have had over 7 surgeries in all. I was pushed into medical menopause at age 32. I completed my last plastic surgery in 2014. In 2010, during my own treatment, my mother tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene and had to get another mastectomy. Her breast MRI showed cancer then had to go through chemotherapy, surgery, and even ICU from complications.
Getting through all of these things has made me resilient and also causes me to reflect on how much places like 412Thrive are imperative for you to be able to truly navigate the complexities of this disease. I would have loved to be a part of something as inclusive and supportive as 412Thrive when I was going through my battle. I enjoy continually ‘paying it forward’ as I benefited from so many strangers' kindness as a child when my mother was sick. I love to utilize my experience as much as possible to help those in need. I bring what I've learned as a breast cancer survivor to my therapy practice and strive to operate from an empathetic and holistic perspective.
As a professional during the past 13 years, I've gained extensive experience working with couples on various issues, helping to guide them on a path of relationship health and satisfaction. As a certified sex therapist through the internationally recognized AASECT organization, I am proud to have received recognition for my work and continue to make progress in this specialized field. I have spoken on the topics of Sex Positivity, Cancer Survivorship, Sexual Confidence, and Sex after Cancer.
Being a survivor and Thriver is so rewarding as I now feel that I have found my people! I am excited to utilize my skills to help others facing breast cancer and genetic mutations Thrive through 412Thrive. I have been amazed and impressed by all that Samantha has done and am excited to help it grow.