"Keep your faith. If you have no support system, you have God, always. Believe that!"
Patricia is 28 years old, living in Philadelphia, PA. On December 5, 2013 she was diagnosed with stage 2A breast cancer. I am delighted to say that Patricia has conquered her battle and is now inspiring other women who have been diagnosed with cancer.
To Patricia: Your positive attitude is unwavering. From the moment that I contacted you until the very last step of this interview process, you have really been amazing. You have made this whole thing informative and fun at the same time. Your sense of humor is relentless and I definitely feel like I should call you my friend. Most importantly, I admire your drive and I love seeing business minded women following their dreams. You have been so uplifting with regards to my own business as well. Thank you for this unforgettable opportunity and we must keep in touch beyond this project, sorry but you can't get rid of me now! ♥
Interview Date: 10/15/15
How were you diagnosed?
I found a lump in my right breast while showering. I'd just turned 26, but didn't hesitate. Initially the doctor and nurse were reluctant to do a biopsy, but to be safe because of imaging from the ultrasound, a biopsy was scheduled. The biopsy was extremely invasive and painful. I cried, a lot! My doctor then called me after what seemed like forever and informed me I had breast cancer.
What was your first thought when you were diagnosed?
To be quite honest, even now, I am unsure why I went to the doctor at all because I was truly convinced in my mind that I was too young to have breast cancer.
How did you react?
Afterward, I felt I was just creating bills and being a hypochondriac. Even after the biopsy I didn't believe it was possible. It had to be something else. When I was finally called in to get the report and the doctor said "you have breast cancer", there was a stiff silence and I suddenly burst out laughing. For days to follow I thought, "I'll just get a surgery and go back to work". I was completely ignorant to all that the diagnosis entailed and how life changing it was.
Is there a history of cancer in your family?
What happened after the diagnosis?
The size of my tumor had grown significantly from the time of diagnosis to surgery date. It was after undergoing a lumpectomy that I was advised because of the tumor size I had stage 2A breast cancer. My cancer was also estrogen receptive which meant that in addition to chemotherapy and radiation, hormone therapy would also be implemented.
After being diagnosed, has your perspective on life changed?
My perspectives on life hadn't change immediately. I was very private about it because I felt I'd been through tougher things and didn't want pity, again, not understanding all I would go through. I was also a workaholic and upset I had to interrupt my "life" because of cancer. My perspectives on life hadn't really changed until after my first couple treatments. Then, I'd realized all the hurts, fears, and grudges that were paralyzing me. I also realized that the handsome rewards I'd received from corporate for being a workaholic were only personal incentives that served as distractions from facing my struggles; that my corporate job was my life and joy because it took my mind off of life and not because it was my passion I realized I'd wasted a lot of time. It was like an awakening.
What gave you strength and motivation?
God; and young women like me that were affected by cancer, and survived! Cliché, but when you're diagnosed with a life threatening disease, your faith definitely can waiver or strengthen. Thankfully, mine took the latter. So that, and knowing other young women that were affected and were living and thriving vibrantly as if cancer never affected them, at least from what the naked eye could see. I knew that after conquering cancer that I'd want to inspire other women, as I'd been by my pink sisters.
Who was your support system and how did they supported you?
My former boss and my close friend were my initial supporters. They went with me to the biopsy. My close friend was with me for major and minor surgeries, and was my cheerleader for most of my chemotherapy treatments. My father was there for my lumpectomy and to transport me home from my treatments. My brother, who lives states away, was my biggest relief. He campaigned breast cancer awareness for men, dyed some of his locks pink, got a tattoo in my honor and helped me financially when he was able to. My sister would also call to see how I was doing. I was introduced to another young survivor after diagnosis and relied on her frequently throughout. After some time though, even the closest people have their personal lives to return to. Toward the middle of my cancer journey until to the end, I felt extremely lonely and the financial struggles had become severely overwhelming. Throughout my journey, but especially at this time, God and my prayers were my support.
What did your treatment consist of?
I was prescribed 16 chemotherapy treatments, (4 Adriamycin Cytoxan and 12 Taxol), 37 radiation treatments, and to take Tamoxifen for 5 years. To be quite frank, treatment was a horrific experience. There were many side effects. Some were: not having control of your energy and sleeping for nearly days at a time, hyper sensitivity to smell and constant nausea, no appetite, hot flashes, nail and skin changes, and joint pain. Almost every treatment I cried and threatened not to go because I was tired of being poked. I have many tattoos and often people would suggest needles shouldn't scare me, but when you're being flushed with saline and having blood drawn and then infused with "treatment", there's no comparison. Through it all, I did try to remain positive over what I could control. When I started losing my hair, I threw myself a private party and shaved my own head after glamming myself up. I introduced myself to a lot of self-help books and dove deeply into meditation and nature. When I was up to it, I definitely made myself look good to feel good. I enjoyed my bald head which I trended shamelessly.
How was the radiation?
Radiation was easier. I'd wake up at 5am to get to treatment by 7:30am and to work by 9am for 37 business days. I'd say the most I'd experienced with that was a bit of fatigue and the treated areas of my skin feeling raw (ouch).
How is the Tamoxifen going?
Tamoxifen was grueling for me! Shortly after starting chemotherapy my menstrual cycle stopped and when I finished chemotherapy it returned. With Tamoxifen, it stopped, again. The hot flashes returned coupled with insomnia, irritability, and adverse changes in my appetite. After only 3 months, I discontinued the hormone therapy drug and advised my doctor why. My doctor actually approved my decision, with some monitoring and follow-ups on my behalf. In exchange, I adopted a no meat lifestyle for nearly 7 months and intend to return to it.
What words do you have for ones afraid to get checked?
#1 THIS IS TEMPORARY! Cancer is not forever! The treatments do stop, the follow up visits do become less frequent, and you will get your life back! This one I'm particularly excited about... #2 GET READY FOR YOUR BREAKTHROUGH! You're about to come to a crossroad that'll force you to analyze yourself and evaluate everything and everyone around you. This journey is really a breakthrough for many! I know it definitely was for me and it pushed me to live boldly and on purpose! Keep your faith. If you have no support system, you have God, always. Believe that!
What advice or message can you provide to those who have been diagnosed?
My cancer journey really presented urgency to live boldly, happily and on purpose. Since cancer, I resigned from my corporate career and am a successful entrepreneur in makeup artistry. As a pink sister, I offer complimentary makeovers to all women undergoing chemotherapy. This is my way of paying it forward for having conquered that experience! All sisters can book an appointment on my website, www.thepinksistah.com.