The battle of her life


Monica Hoban

There’s a homemade sign hanging over her computer, a block of wood with a ribbon attached. “Riding for Monica.”

Monica Hoban keeps it there to remember the kindness and support she received while she fought one of the hardest battles of her life.

In October 2010, Hoban, administrative assistant in the Faculty Senate, decided to visit the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center mobile unit that’s brought to campus annually.

“I needed to have a mammogram, so I thought, ‘Well, I think I’ll give that a try,’” Hoban says.

“It was really easy. There were posters all over the place, I just called the number and set up an appointment. I was working in the Main Building at the time and I just took the shuttle over. By the time I was done, I just walked outside and there was the shuttle to take me back.”

Not long afterward, Hoban found out she had breast cancer.

“There’s a high occurrence of breast cancer in my family,” she says. “Every female on my mother’s side has had breast cancer.”

Hoban, who has been getting mammograms regularly since she was 35, had three tumors.

“I ended up having to have a mastectomy. I had another test done because of my age—I’m young and premenopausal—and it came back high. I went through chemo but didn’t have radiation.” Between December 2010 and December 2012, Hoban had four major surgeries.

She found a network of support and encouragement from her coworkers at Notre Dame. “I couldn’t have been in a better place,” she says. “I was working in the Provost’s Office. They said, ‘Do what you have to do, take the time you need.’

“The provost insisted I take his parking space, and then I saw that he parked next to Father Jenkins,” she says with a laugh. “And I said, ‘No, I can’t do this, my car is too dirty!’”

The sign above her desk was made for her by Greg Crawford, dean of the College of Science.

“Dean Crawford was my biggest cheerleader for this whole thing,” she says. “One day he called me and he said, ‘I want you to watch the news on Sunday.’” Hoban explains that Crawford participated in the inaugural 24-hour Spin-A-Thon for Pink Zone in January 2011. The sign, which has a personal inscription on the back, was hanging on Crawford’s stationary bike throughout the event. The Spin-A-Thon raised $30,000 for Pink Zone, an initiative to raise funds for breast cancer research and awareness that culminates at sn annual Notre Dame women’s basketball game. WNDU covered the event and interviewed Crawford, who told them he was riding for Monica. He rode for all 24 hours.

“That meant a lot to me. He’s always been there,” she says.

Hoban, a committee member for the Pink Zone, is an active advocate of regular mammograms and self-exams.

“I cannot stress the importance of annual mammograms and self-exams,” she says. “I have talked to many breast cancer survivors who found their lumps themselves, even after having a mammogram. For me, mine were not palpable, so mine were found during a routine mammogram. If it were not for that mammogram I had here on campus a year ago, my story today could be quite different. I might not even be here.”

Of getting her exam at the mobile unit, Hoban says, “I thought it was so easy. I really thought it was. It’s so easy to have it done here. You can have it done on a lunch hour. Less than a lunch hour.”

In 2012, Hoban is cancer-free.

“Now it’s all behind me. I had two major surgeries in December so I could start 2012 with a new outlook, a fresh outlook, and there’s nothing that’s going to stop me now.”