I met Pat on Instagram & we’ve been there to encourage one another through our journeys. Pat is a beautiful strong woman from New Jersey, a body builder even, who felt she was too healthy to ever have cancer.
A little over five years ago, Pat was in the best shape of her life. She’d just turned 50 & had been training hard as ever & recently even taken third place in a body building competition. She was strong & on top of the world!
A week before the competition, in October, she had a routine mammogram that showed no concern, exactly as she’d expected. However, three months following Pat noticed a lump in her breast while in the shower. She was sure it was just a benign cyst, nothing could happen to her… She was in great shape, she was fit & healthy! No family history of breast cancer, clearly it couldn’t be that.
Pat saw her doctor. Following a failed biopsy that broke three needles, a second mammogram, ultrasound & finally an MRI, Pat learned she’d been training for much more than that competition; she’d been training for the biggest fight of her life.
It was Valentine’s Day & Pat wasn’t expecting bad news, she went to her appointment solo. It was there, she was diagnosed with Stage IIA Triple Negative Breast Cancer. A very aggressive cancer that she was terrified to learn had grown quite a bit since her clear mammogram just three months prior.
She returned to work in a state of disbelief & shock. Soon despair set in, Pat went home to tell her husband, on Valentine’s Day…. They cried together. She decided they would still go on a planned ski trip that weekend. She remembers the world looking so different & surreal on that trip, as she worked to accept her devastating diagnosis.
Shortly after, Pat began treatment with a mastectomy. The following month she had a routine port put in for chemo, but when she awoke from anesthesia found she couldn’t breathe. She’d suffered a surgery induced collapsed lung & had to spend the week in hospital with a chest tube for Saint Patrick’s Day.
Finally, in April she began chemo; an intense three-month TAC regimen. Being in shape physically helped Pat get through chemo & its side effects much more smoothly than many women she’s met through her journey. She stayed as active as possible, still getting to the gym, attended cancer support groups & utilized programs offered by her hospital like gentle yoga.
It was at one of her weakest points, that Pat gained new perspective. She’d been hospitalized with a neutropenic fever, a dangerous condition for a patient going through chemo. She gained a new-found faith that sparked a new attitude, that she’s grateful for to this day. She’s learned to slow down & appreciate life for all it has, to offer.
Pat says cancer has also given her a lesson; that you can’t place your self-worth on your physical appearance. Bald & boob-less changes all of that for Pat rather quickly, leaving her to find & focus on her inner beauty. She loves to now encourage others on their journey & offer advice. She’s even written & illustrated a 32-page book titled Breast Cancer. Seriously? Hot Chicks Get Cancer Too. Going from Hot to Not, to Loving Me a Lot & hopes to find a publisher this year. It’s a unique book offering humor to encourage & empower those impacted by cancer.