Patty's Story

 

Patty Dolaway was invited to join the Board of Directors of the CVBCA shortly after finishing her breast cancer treatment in 2007. She enjoys her work with the CVBCA because she knows first-hand the importance of the work of the CVBCA. The mission of the CVBCA is a priority in her life. Patty helps with the fundraising events (mostly with the use of her computer skills) and participates in the many activities of the CVBCA. She has been married for 38 years and has three children and three grandsons. Here is her survivor story:

 
 

I was 53 years old when I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in December of 2006. A mammogram at the end of November showed a suspicious area and a sonogram the next week confirmed a tumor. I had a lumpectomy rather than a needle biopsy, as the tumor was large enough (2.1 cm) that the surgeon would recommend that it be excised whether it was cancer or not.

The lumpectomy showed that I did indeed have breast cancer and I went in for further surgery in Jan. to get a clearer margin on the tumor and to have a sentinel node biopsy. I did have cancer in one of the nodes, which were biopsied while I was in surgery. Fourteen more nodes were removed and one of those came back positive. I had eight rounds of chemotherapy, four of adriamycin and cytoxin and four of taxol. This was followed by 33 radiation treatments.
One of the questions many of my family and friends had was: What does “having chemo” exactly entail, so on 3rd day after my first chemo treatment and I wrote a note on my Carepage to l explain the process.
About an hour before I went in for my chemo, I took the first of three Emend pills for nausea (new at the time and apparently a miracle drug). The other two are for day 2 & 3 after treatment. My husband accompanied me for the treatment. Although many other friends and family offered to come along; I was most comfortable with just my husband for this first treatment.

When I arrived at the beautiful treatment center in Chambersburg, I was meant by one of the oncology nurses. She started an IV in my right hand. She only had to use a small needle so I barely felt it. Then she put in a steroid, which made me a little tingly for about 30 seconds; it slows the swelling of the intestines and stomach lining, which helps with the nausea. She then dripped in another anti-nausea drug. After that she had to sit and "push" the first chemo drug, Adriamycin, into my IV. It is red and was in a vial that was about an inch in diameter and 4 inches long. She needed to monitor that closely as it could cause irritation at the IV site. It did not! It took about 20 minutes to inject that. Then she started the IV drip of the next chemo, which was Cytoxin. That took just about an hour to finish.

My oncology doctor stopped by to see how I was doing and a lay chaplain stopped by to visit, a kind older man who reminded me of my Dad (however, most tall, white haired men in their late 70's remind me of my Dad). We were then done for the day! We stopped by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription of compazine (another anti-nausea drug) and went home to drink lots of water and "pee" very often. Fortunately I was warned that the “red” chemo would come out red at the other end. Drinking lots of water is important for flushing the chemo through your kidneys.

The next day I had to go back to receive an injection of Neulasta. It is to help build up your white blood count. Low blood counts are the main problem with chemo. If they are low, treatment has to be delayed and no one wants that to happen. The Neulasta can cause your bones to ache, which it did, but not to badly. Advil helps!

I had three more chemo treatments like this one, and then 4 rounds of a chemotherapy drug, Taxol. The chemotherapy was scheduled every third week. I did have to delay one week because of low blood counts, but the rest of the schedule went without a hitch. Following that I had 33 radiation treatments. I will soon mark SEVEN years post diagnosis! For all intents and purposes, a 5 year survival of triple-negative breast cancer is called a cure! Life does go on after Breast Cancer. It was nine months from my initial diagnosis to my last radiation treatment. It was the most amazing physical, emotional and spiritual journey I have ever been on…. I often say, it was the best worst thing that ever happened to me.

Some cute anecdotes:
I work at a school and one day I went in and decided to do first lunch duty so I could see all the Kindergartners and First graders. I got lots of hugs and smiles, which was very uplifting. I had on one of my “hats” and several of the students commented on how much they liked it. Then one kindergarten came over to me and said, "Mrs. Dolaway, it looks like you don't have any hair"! I replied, "Well, that would be because I don't have any hair". Then I told them that the medicine that I have to take to make me all better, made my hair fall out, but that I would get all better and my hair would grow back. I also was sure to tell them that this was a special medicine and that any medicine they took wouldn't make their hair fall out.

The second story is even cuter. My husband and I went to social event at our church sometime in the middle of my treatments, by then I had lost all my hair. It was nice to see a lot of the people who had been praying for me. After a while I got pretty tired, so my husband went to get the car and I was waiting by the door. One of our school families came in the door. Two of their daughters went to our school, one in kindergarten and the other in second grade. They are the sweetest little girls and always greet me with smiles and big hellos. The kindergartener was the first to walk through the door and she said, "Hello, Mrs. Dolaway". Then the second grader walked through and I said hello, she said, "Hi" and kept walking then turned and said, "My goodness, you look exactly like Mrs. Dolaway"! I said, "Well, that would be because I am Mrs. Dolaway". I am not sure she was completely convinced though! I sure wish I had that on videotape, the expression on her face was great.

A short time after my chemo was finished, while I was still bald, my husband and I ventured out to a nine-hole golf course to have a little fun. We were using a cart (I still wasn’t feeling strong enough to walk the course) and we pulled up to the 7th hole where a dad and his 4 year old son were just teeing off. The little boy whispered something to his dad, who responded, “Go ahead, and ask her”. The little boy looked reluctant so I volunteered, “Does he want to know why I don’t have any hair”? The dad smiled and said, “No, he wants to know why you have a pink golf ball”.

One day, when I went into school, I found a beautiful note in my mailbox, scrawled on a little piece of ripped paper. The note was from a second grader. I have the note in a frame, where it is displayed proudly in my house. Here is the message: “If you feel bad because you had cancer, don’t feel bad because I had cancer, too. And also lost my hair too. So don’t feel bad or sad, I still think you look more beautiful than a flower. Love, M____” (This little girl was 3 years old when she went through cancer treatments. To this day, she is an inspiration to me!)

 
© 2013 Cumberland Valley Breast  Care Alliance, Chambersburg, PA 17201