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Her 'hero' mother got cancer when she was in high school. Now her work is 'moving the field forward'

'What I do today is all because of the experience I’ve had'
Posted at 2:23 PM, Jun 06, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- Since she was a teen, Lathika Mohanraj could see herself working in the medical field of cancer.

“Whatever small impact I may have, it's helping," Mohanraj said. "It's moving the field forward. I think that's important.”

Mohanraj is a researcher and registered nurse at VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center where she teaches future nurses.

"What I do today is all because of the experience I’ve had,” Mohanraj said.

Cbs 6 anchor Reba Hollingsworth and Lathika Mohanraj
Cbs 6 anchor Reba Hollingsworth and Lathika Mohanraj

In high school, Mohanraj’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s.

“There were no tears. There were no, 'Oh my god, why is this happening?'" Mohanraj recalled. "This is what happened. This is how the next few months are going to look."

Mohanraj watched her mother go through a lumpectomy and chemo. That’s when she knew exactly what her future would look like.

“I remember I went and applied [to be] a summer intern for cancer research. I got selected. That was my first exposure to research in India. This is what I want to do,” Mohanraj said.

Lathika Mohanraj
Lathika Mohanraj

In her personal life, Mohanraj knows she is at a high risk for breast cancer because her mom was diagnosed at an early age.

Her mother had a recurrence of breast cancer 18 years after her first diagnosis. Mohanraj credits her mother for continuing with her follow up appointments for years. That is how her second cancer was caught. That's why Mohanraj encourages other breast cancer survivors to do their follow ups as well.

Lathika Mohanraj
Lathika Mohanraj and her mother.

From her own cancer risk to her research studying blood cancers, both experiences motivate Mohanraj to help cancer patients have a better quality of life.

“The way I address research is the same way," Mohanraj noted. "Can we do something to identify risk factors to ensure they do well after treatments."

It is work that has mom's seal of approval.

“She’s my hero and I know she’s proud of me,” Mohanraj said.

Reba Hollingsworth continues Buddy Check 6 reports in honor of Stephanie Rochon
Reba Hollingsworth continues Buddy Check 6 reports in honor of Stephanie Rochon

On the 6th of the month, CBS 6 and VCU Massey Cancer Center remind women to contact their buddy to remind them to conduct a monthly breast self-exam. If it is time, you should also schedule an annual clinical breast exam and mammogram, which are key to early detection.

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