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Putting the Spotlight on Cancer

Posted: October 11, 2017

NorthBay Honors Advocates, Shares Gene Research

An audience of more than 60 people heard a cancer "previvor" share her story and then learned about genetic counseling and breast cancer treatment from NorthBay Healthcare's own Genetic Counselor Karen Vikstrom and Oncoplastic Surgeon Jason Marengo, M.D. on Wednesday.

It was all part of a special Doc Talk Live lecture titled "If Only Your Genes Could Talk …"

NorthBay Healthcare Foundation President Brett Johnson announced Dolly Rivero-Mendieta as the 2017 recipient of the Christine Franklin Award.

Dolly is a project/event coordinator at Genentech, a biotech firm that manfucturesDolly Rivero-Mendieta cancer drugs, among other things. Dolly has been a huge supporter of NorthBay, organizing "Strike Out Cancer," at the River Cats for several years, raising funds for the NorthBay Cancer Center.

Brett explained Christine Franklin's connection to NorthBay as a longtime Guild member and cancer patient who died in 2011. He then introduced several past recipients and explained that this year's winner was unable to attend but would receive her award at another NorthBay event.

"Without compassionate individuals like these, many of the programs and services provided through our cancer center would just not be possible," he said.

Raychel Kubby Adler, a mother of two and a wellness coach, took the stage and shared excerpts from her book, "Life in Asymmetry," which explores what it means to live with a genetic predisposition for cancer and to be a "previvor."

Raychel lost both her mother and an older sister to breast cancer. Genetic testing confirmed she has a genetic mutation, which means she has a high risk of developing breast cancer.

"It is a tumor-suppressing gene that doesn't know how to do its job," she said.

Raychel set about learning all she could and opted for preventive surgery, having a double mastectomy. "Our future is not determined by genetics alone," she said.

Karen shared details about genetic testing and what her job entails, adding that while it is scary to think about cancer and testing, the goal is "to make sure you feel empowered going forward."

Dr. Jason Marengo (left to right) Karen Vikstrom and Raychel Kubby Adler.Dr. Marengo explained risk factors, tests and mammograms, and steps to help prevent cancer.

NorthBay will present "Using Your Genes to Fight Cancer," featuring Mayo Clinic Oncologist Alan K. Bryce, M.D. and NorthBay Cancer Center Oncologist James Long, M.D. from noon to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Green Valley Administration Center. Lunch is included. Cost is $15. Sign up at or call 646-3280.