Patricia wasn’t alarmed after she was asked to have a follow-up mammogram. She was still calm when they followed up with an ultrasound and needle biopsy, both of which she’d previously completed with normal results.
It wasn’t until Patricia was introduced to a nurse navigator that she realized her medical team thought she had cancer.
“I could’ve been knocked down with a feather,” Patricia remembered upon learning her diagnosis. “I never, ever contemplated having cancer.”
The tumor was small, but somewhat aggressive, and her medical team told her that chemotherapy was a choice. She had to quickly make decisions on whether to have a lumpectomy or full mastectomy and what treatment plan she wanted to pursue for her Stage 1, Grade 2 breast cancer diagnosis.
Patricia quickly gathered information from a variety of people to make decisions for her treatment. She met with a surgeon, collected advice from other breast cancer survivors and researched online to assist her with the decision-making process.
“I was totally overwhelmed by how much I had to learn,” Patricia recalled. “It’s almost like getting a Ph.D. in breast cancer.”
She ultimately decided to have a lumpectomy, intraoperative radiation and chemotherapy. Patricia was so terrified for her first treatment that she didn’t even want to go in the door. She knew she had to conquer her fear and although the chemotherapy was hard on her body, it wasn’t as bad as she thought it might be.
“I’m pretty stubborn. I’d say ‘I can’t do this anymore’ but I knew I had to,” Patricia reflected.
The number of people who said nothing about her cancer surprised Patricia. She understood that people often don’t know what to say so they say nothing at all, but now that she’s experienced cancer she has a better idea of what to say to someone facing a cancer diagnosis.
“Even a hug is better than nothing,” Patricia advised. “Just acknowledge that you care and that you’re there to listen if they need someone to talk to.”
Patricia learned about MyLifeLine.org through a coworker and remembered being completely overwhelmed with the amount of support she received through her personal site. She invited only the people she knew would be supportive to follow her experience on MyLifeLine.org.
“I was very careful about whom I let read my blogs on my site, but I had thousands of visits during the time that I was blogging. It was huge knowing there were that many people who cared about me, even if they didn’t write anything,” Patricia explained.
She used blogging to write about how she felt during the many ups and downs of her experience. “I really explored how I was feeling by writing. It was therapeutic. The feedback from friends was encouraging,” she reflected.
Patricia’s advice to those facing a cancer diagnosis is to maintain a positive attitude. “Your attitude is the only thing you can control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation,” she said.