Pat’s Story

I am a 13-year survivor. I was diagnosed 13 years ago but I was one of the lucky ones because it was in its early stage. I’m a big proponent of self- examination. Early detection saves lives, that’s the bottom line. I’m the poster child for that, because I found the lump myself, went to the doctor who said “oh it’s probably nothing” and it turned out to be something. I was one of the lucky ones because of early detection. I had a cousin who was not so lucky – she passed away from it. So I did the 3-Day walk, I did all of the things I was “supposed” to do and then I got BC and it was like, wait a minute, it’s supposed to happen to everybody else, not me.

I had a lumpectomy and a kind of radiation that was new at the time. I went 2 times a day for a week and they did the radiation right at the site. My daughter took me to my treatments; she was on spring break from college and we had to travel an hour to the destination for this new treatment. I felt great the whole time, I had to have a treatment early that morning and later the same day so we had to stick around. We went shopping, but I remember one day I said, “I’m tired” and she said, “Let’s just sit in the car,” and we just sat in the car and napped and listened to the radio. It was real bonding with my daughter and I knew that I had to get through because of that. I was so thankful that she was there with me – it was her college break, she should’ve been having a good time and here she was, dragging her mom back and forth.

It’s a club you don’t want to belong to.

I think being a survivor made me realize how important it is to give back, so I got involved with Komen. In Atlanta, where I did the 3-Day, I helped and I was a big supporter of all the things that they did, because they do so much good. I was asked to be the ambassador for this side of the bridge so I jumped on that and got involved with the educational programs. It has kept me active – I see the good that they do, I’m impressed by what they do, and I’m a big supporter of what they do.

It’s changed my life in a lot of ways because I have become more compassionate towards those people who aren’t as lucky as me. And who are at a different part of their journey, and their journey is more difficult. I’ve found a lot of new people and new friends because of it; I’m involved on a breast cancer survivor dragon boat team here in Sarasota and that has opened up new doors for meeting lots of wonderful ladies. I’ve enjoyed that thoroughly for the last three years.

They had a big international festival here in 2014 and they didn’t have a team in Sarasota, so we got a team together and there were 3000 breast cancer survivors from all over the world that participated. I had never done it before; didn’t even know how to swim! I didn’t let that stop me; I was apprehensive, but there was a lady that walked in to the meeting the same time that I did – our Canadian coach – and she said, “Don’t let that stop you” and I didn’t. A doctor was the one who started this for breast cancer survivors. His theory was that instead of no exercise (at that time, they were saying for breast cancer, you need to take it easy) you need exercise, so he got some ladies in a boat and proved that exercise was good mentally and physically.

All of these ladies on the team are breast cancer survivors – some are still going through treatment, some are survivors like myself, but some are newly diagnosed. We have all ages and stages, it’s really all encompassing. It’s a club you don’t want to belong to. We say that to paddlers who want to be a part of our boat – you really don’t want to be on our boat. That’s the sad part, but it has opened up new doors. It has humbled me a great deal; I’ve met so many wonderful people and had new experiences that I probably never would have had. ~ Pat

(Pat was also our 2015 Honorary Team New Balance survivor. Also, Pat and her dragon boat team of breast cancer survivors recently won a bronze medal at a race in Chicago.)

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