Attitude Is Everything
Battling breast cancer the positive way
When Dona Patterson got the call from her surgeon’s office in October 2009, she knew—that knot she had felt in her left breast while lying in bed was cancer. But for some reason the 68-year-old Jacksons’ Gap resident wasn’t scared, despite having three cousins who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and a sister-in-law who would die from the disease just two months after Patterson was diagnosed. “I just felt like everything would be OK,” she says. Patterson told no one about the lump—not even her husband—until she knew it was cancer. She didn’t want to needlessly worry anyone.
The diagnosis from Barbara Michna, M.D., a surgeon at Russell Medical Center (RMC), was stage II invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer. It starts in the milk ducts and invades surrounding breast tissue. Luckily, Patterson’s cancer had not spread beyond her breast.
She started chemotherapy at the Cancer Center at RMC soon after her diagnosis and finished her sixth and final round in February. After her first round, her tumor had shrunk to half its size. But for Patterson, chemotherapy would be the hardest part of her cancer treatment. It left food without taste and the tips of her fingers and feet numb.
Her hair started coming out in clumps during the second week of treatment. But much like every other aspect of her cancer, Patterson kept her positive attitude and took it in stride. She had her beautician daughter-in-law shave her head and took a lighthearted picture with her son-inlaw and stepson—both short on hair themselves.
In March, she underwent a lumpectomy. “I had no problems, no pain,” Patterson says. And in May, she started her radiation treatment while continuing to receive Herceptin infusion treatments, which she had been undergoing since taking chemotherapy. She formally finished her cancer treatment with the last Herceptin infusion on October 28. “I consider myself cancer free,” she says, and she’s ready to keep on enjoying her seven children, 11 grandchildren and church activities.
Patterson says she was thrilled with the care she received at RMC. “I am so proud to have the Cancer Center in our community,” she says. “I didn’t have to leave home to get treatment. And everybody was so good—the doctors, the chemo nurses. I’m going to miss them so much.”
That’s why she’s decided to volunteer through the RMC’s auxiliary to offer comfort to women going through the breast cancer experience. “I want to tell women they can make it through,” she says. “Don’t let the cancer take over you.”
Dona Patterson’s family attended the recent RMC Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon together. Pictured from left to right: Elizabeth Hawkins, aunt; Helen Hawkins Dickinson, cousin and breast cancer survivor; Dona Hawkins Patterson; Jane Hawkins, mother; Kay Hawkins Nail, sister; Pat Hawkins Cofield, cousin; Carol Ann Westbrook Hawkins, cousin and two-time breast cancer survivor.