Thoughts on Perseverance: From Patti

May 13, 2022

Meet Patti - Ms. February 2017   |   Diagnosed at 48 (2014), re-diagnosed at 53

Funny…I never gave much thought to that word throughout most of my life. I had always led a kind of “charmed life”. Then suddenly, it became a word to live by.

I’d say that word came into my vocabulary around 2009, when my then husband announced he was leaving and wanted to move to Korea, leaving me to raise 2 teenage daughters!

June 2013, life changed yet again when my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. Here was a man who was in exceptional health and took every necessary scheduled test! The doctors said he just “fell through the cracks”! 

My next year was all about getting him the doctors and treatments he needed. I neglected myself and my mammogram was missed. When he was stabilized, I had that mammogram and was diagnosed with DCIS. Okay, it’s stage 0. We cleared it up with a lumpectomy and radiation and life moved on.

2016, I married again. Dad was still fighting, and life was looking up!

Dad finally passed in December of 2018 after a 5 1/2-year battle. An exhausting year had come to an end. A mere 2 months later, I felt a lump. My doctors assured me it was probably scar tissue. I had just had a clear mammogram 3 months prior, and the ultrasound didn’t see anything suspicious. My follow up mammogram in May 2019 showed the lump. I was diagnosed again. Stage 1 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.

Seriously?? Okay, I’ve had a rough few years now! When do I get a break?

My kids were all grown and successful. I was still a newlywed. And the horrors of my father’s cancer battle were no longer consuming my life. It should have been MY TIME! I know that sounds selfish, but it had been a rough few years.

So I did what I had to. Double mastectomy, chemotherapy and a year of Herceptin were on the plan. 

I began my chemo and after the 2nd treatment, my husband threw me a head shaving party and we removed my last locks of hair among my friends! 

2 weeks later he announced that “this wasn’t fun anymore“ and decided to leave me.

So now I was living alone, going through chemo by myself and honestly, keeping it all a secret! I was embarrassed that he left me, especially in my time of need. 

I finished chemo, continued the Herceptin, and got ready for my double mastectomy. Both of my daughters arranged to work from home, so they moved in for a few weeks, along with my mom, to help with my recovery. I’m forever grateful to them.

Surgery went well, expanders were placed for reconstruction, and I recovered. 

Winter of 2020….2 months after surgery, life is starting to get back to normal. Then COVID HITS!! The world shuts down on me again! I can’t go anywhere or see anyone. I stay alone in my little bubble, working from home and only leaving for Herceptin infusions or doctor appointments. My implant swap surgery is postponed since it’s elective surgery, so I get to enjoy those expanders for an extra few months!

Finally, I am able to have the implants placed. I am warned that my previously radiated skin may cause a problem, but everything goes smoothly! 

The next month, after my last Herceptin infusion, my final echocardiogram shows that the Herceptin caused congestive heart failure. So now I add a cardiologist to my growing list of doctors. The MRI he does on my heart shows a lesion on my spleen. SERIOUSLY?

My oncologist begins monitoring it and thankfully after almost 2 years it has never changed, and they are assuming it is a hemangioma. But still…

Summer 2020, I begin physical therapy for the lymphedema I had developed after surgery. My physical therapist takes it upon herself to massage my 5-week-old scars from the implant surgery and chastises me for not doing it sooner. She manages to massage her way through my radiated skin and expose my implant. Plastic surgeon needs to operate and put in a smaller implant. I develop cellulitis while waiting for surgery. I wake up after surgery and I’m told that there was not enough skin left to put in an implant, so he has to leave that side flat. No implant in my future! Surprise!

Life moves on…. COVID variants come…port removal surgeries postponed…finally February 2021 I get my port removed. To me that was the symbolic end of this journey. 

It’s now a year later. I had reconnected with an old high school buddy in NY a few years ago and we are starting our new life together! He is everything I ever hoped for, and I pray that we can live out our lives together. 

I feel like I have climbed Mount Everest this past decade, but I’ve kept going. 

Always looking for that light at the end of the tunnel.

I have never considered myself strong. But boy, have I amazed myself! You never know what you can do until you are forced to do it!

Am I the same person I was 10 years ago? Definitely not! I have grown in ways I could never have imagined! 

Things happen for a reason. It’s not always easy to determine that reason but I believe that’s true.

Perseverance…. persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. This word describes my life for the past decade!

Contentment…. a state of happiness and satisfaction. This is my new word to live by!

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