BRAvo dancer profile: Laura and Dr. Justin Klamerus

2019, Archive, Month, October, Year
laura and doctor klamerus

Laura wasn’t going to let anything dampen her overwhelming optimism.

With no history of it in her family tree, breast cancer was far from the married mother of two’s mind.

But that didn’t stop her from staying regular with her mammograms, which is why she was surprised to feel a lump in her breast six months after receiving a clean report after her most recent screening.

Thinking – hoping – it was nothing alarming, she tried to put it out of her mind. But after six weeks and no change, she made an appointment with her OB/GYN for a 3D mammogram.

“It was pretty aggressive,” Laura said. “I was diagnosed stage 2, and it was kind of a fluke because it was triple negative breast cancer.”

Triple negative is a form of breast cancer in which the three most common types of receptors that are known to support breast cancer growth are absent.

It’s rare to receive a triple negative diagnosis, and it’s normally associated with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Complicating the diagnosis further, the absence of the receptors make common treatments ineffective.

It does bring the chance, though, that chemotherapy may be more effective than with other forms of cancer if it’s caught early. This made starting chemo quickly crucial for Laura.

“I was very lucky in that my body responded very well to chemo,” she said, after 16 rounds of chemo over five months. “And the tumor shrank to nearly nothing.”

Following chemo, Laura had a double mastectomy and, after a check of her lymph nodes, was deemed cancer-free.

“I didn’t really receive that clean bill of health because of the chances that it could re-occur,” she said. “There’s a higher chance that it could re-occur in the first five years, so we continue to keep a cautious eye on it.”

Even with not totally being out of the woods with her cancer diagnosis, and having to endure the fact that she was afflicted with a rare form of breast cancer without anyone in her family having ever had the disease, Laura remained optimistic that she would see herself through to a healthy outcome.

It was with that notion of cheer and glee that she decided to share those feelings and participate in BRAvo 2019’s “Dancing With Our Docs,” with partner Dr. Justin Klamerus, who was also inspired by Laura and the countless others who have faced similar challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis.

“I have seen the significant challenges our patients face,” he said, “but I have also witnessed the heroism in action, and we are witnessing unprecedented progress in the treatment of many cancers.”

After completing fellowship training at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Klamerus began his career in Petoskey, where he practiced for five years as a general medical oncologist at McLaren Northern Michigan.

Treating patients had a profound effect on him, a feeling he keeps with him years later, now as the president of the Karmanos Cancer Hospital and Network. Karmanos is the largest provider of cancer research and clinical care in Michigan.

“Cancer patients live with a higher order of knowing,” he said. “They are going through a tremendous ordeal, and if you stop and listen to their stories, there is so much we can learn about life from them.”

While nervous and admittedly a little scared of his dancing skills, he quickly agreed to participate in BRAvo. Having attended several of the events, he sees the importance of the achievements resulting from it.

“What the Macomb team has done with growing this event is amazing,” Dr. Klamerus said. “Raising money, but also raising awareness and raising conviction. In building awareness and conviction, you can heal anything. We are so grateful to all of the patients, caregivers, providers and community at McLaren Macomb.”