The Last Word with Roberta King Latham

In honor of September’s Race for the Cure, The Last Word caught up with breast cancer survivor Roberta King Latham. Roberta is Vice President of the Susan G. Komen Northwest NC Board of Directors, a Partner in the Civil Litigation law firm of Bennett & Guthrie, PLLC, as well as a mother to a 2 ½ year old and a 4 month old. In the midst of her busy day, Roberta was kind enough to share her journey with us.

  1. Tell me about when you first heard the diagnosis. “I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in October 2008 at age 33. I felt a lump in my breast in April of 2008 and told my doctors. I remember the doctors telling me that they felt sure it was not cancer because I was so young, that I just had dense breasts. I waited 6 months as they ‘watched’ it. I’ll never forget the phone call after the mammogram and biopsy. ‘Rob-erta, you have invasive breast cancer. Who is your surgeon?’ I was shocked and devas-tated. My first reaction was to put my head on my desk and cry and that’s what I did. But I pulled myself together and I remember resolving that I was not going to let something like this beat me.”
  2. Tell me a little about your breast cancer journey. I went through over a year of treatment between 2008 and 2010 – mastectomy, lymph node removal, chemo, Her-ceptin and reconstructive surgeries. I continued to practice law, I just had to wear wigs and hats in the courtroom when my hair fell out. As a young, single professional, my primary focus in life had been on my career up until my diagnosis. Then I worried I would never meet someone who would love and accept me post-cancer treatment, that cancer treatment would rob me of my ability to have children. Toward the end of my treatment, I was blessed to meet my husband, Will. Today, I am over 5 years cancer free, a mother to two beautiful children and passionate about my position as Vice Presi-dent of the Susan G. Komen Northwest NC Board.”
  3. What advice would you give women facing a breast cancer diagnosis? “My ad-vice is to stay calm and know that there is hope. Be your own advocate and educate yourself on the treatment options. Being young and single, I thought my breasts de-fined me as a woman. Now I know that there are so many other things that define you as a woman.”
  4. What was the hardest thing about your diagnosis? “For me, breast cancer put mortality right in my face. It definitely changed my perspective on what is important in my life.”
  5. How did you get involved with Susan G Komen Northwest NC? “I was asked by another board member to apply to the board. Before that, I kept my cancer very private and very close. I never talked about my treatment and, in fact, I hid it as best I could with the wigs and hats. Becoming a member of the board gave me the freedom to talk about my journey, to show that young women can develop breast cancer.”
  6. What sets Komen apart from other organizations? “75% of our fundraising stays local. The other 25% goes into national research projects and a substantial amount of those funds also come back to our community through grants, such as to Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. We help local women get access to mammograms, the best in early detection. I am a passionate advocate for education and early detection. Susan G. Komen Northwest NC makes that possible for women who do not have the means.”
  7. Where would you like to see Komen in 5 years? “Of course I’d love to see the or-ganization grow. I would also like to see the public educated about the local impact of Susan G. Komen Northwest NC. Many do not realize that the funds we raise stay lo-cal.”
  8. What is your guilty pleasure? “Oh, my – I’m like a little child – it is cheese pizza, the cheesier the better.”