Patient Stories

Breast Cancer Survivor

Kelly Larkin-Holmes

Breast Cancer Survivor


  Kelly Larkin-Holmes, Seattle, Washington
  • Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31 after performing self-exam 
  • Cured with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation

Kelly Larkin-Holmes was newly married and just 31 years old in February 2001 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two months later, Kelly learned that her mother, Diane Larkin, then 56, had breast cancer as well. 


"It was the day before my first chemotherapy treatment that I found out Mom had it," Kelly recalls. "I thought, 'This is going to be an interesting year.'" 


Kelly, an athletic, upbeat, live-wire of a woman, found the lump in her breast during a routine self-exam. She had just married her husband, Dean, and it was close to the holidays, so she decided to wait another month and see if the lump was still there before calling her doctor.

It was. But at first, the doctor thought cancer was unlikely, because of Kelly's age. And initial tests showed no signs of cancer. "Being 31, no one really expected this to be anything, but I decided to just have it out," Kelly says. Kelly had the lump removed and biopsied; it was cancer.


After her initial surgery, Kelly knew she would need chemotherapy, and a family friend suggested she see Dr. Gralow at SCCA. Kelly came to the Breast Cancer Specialty Center for an evaluation by a multi-disciplinary team, which included Dr. Gralow, a breast surgeon and a radiation oncologist.

"One of my favorite things was the team approach," Kelly says. "Before my diagnosis, I didn't even know what an oncologist was! It was great not having to make all those separate appointments. I saw them all in one day and I felt they were really looking at me. It was also reassuring to have these other doctors look at what my surgeon had done."

The team recommended six months of chemotherapy, three months each with two different drug regimens, and then radiation.

Kelly continued to work in financial planning during treatment, and won two awards for her sales performance at the end of the year. She kept up her exercise program as well, going to a spinning class on Saturday mornings after getting chemo on Friday. "I wanted to get the poisons out," she says.

Diane and Kelly still don't know if their cancer was caused by one of the breast cancer genes. But Kelly does plan to investigate any genetic connection in the near future, because she has a new son as well as a sister and young nieces. Knowing whether she has the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene is important not only to determine her own future medical care, but also that of her relatives.