This is the story of a sisterhood, but one that most would prefer not to join. If you do, you may come to see it is a sisterhood of hope. That’s how Patti Friedman sees it.
Patti joined her sisterhood in January 2007, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The vivacious, energetic wife and mother of two had never considered herself a likely candidate for breast cancer. There was no family history, she ate right and exercised, and she was only 47 years old.
But cancer follows its own path.
Patti’s journey with breast cancer began in October 2006 with pain and then a small lump in her left breast. She rationalized the symptoms as fibroids, which she had had before, and soreness from aerobic exercise. When October became November, Patti noted that the pain had worsened but still wasn’t intolerable and that the lump had changed a little.
She told herself she would get through the Thanksgiving holiday and then have it checked out.
December became a blur of doctors’ appointments and tests. The first week of the month started with an appointment with her OB/GYN, who scheduled her for a mammogram the following week. A second mammogram and ultrasound followed during Christmas week. By New Year’s, she had had a guided biopsy.
Next came an appointment with a general surgeon. The visit confirmed Patti’s fears: breast cancer.
Things continued to move quickly as Patti had more tests and then underwent surgery—a mastectomy and removal of 12 lymph nodes.
Later, as she recovered at home, Patti sat in her recliner (the most comfortable place she could find) and had a number of conversations with herself and with God. Those talks became a deciding factor for her new journey as she decided to fight the disease with everything she had.
Patti chose a local oncologist to help her in her fight, and she started her on a course of treatment that included both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. And Patti – well, Patti started studying, devouring any information she could find about the disease and asking questions of her medical team.
Determined to meet her disease head on, she looked into the clinical trials being offered and was accepted into one.
Throughout her journey, she continued to work, scheduling her treatments on Thursdays so she would have a long weekend to overcome the side effects. She chose to see the glass as half-full instead of half-empty and began cutting her red hair into shorter and shorter styles, knowing that it would eventually be gone. When it was, she found she loved the freedom of being bald.
She and other “Thursday regulars” at radiation therapy formed a support system, helping each other out when needed. She was overwhelmed by the support of her family, church, co-workers and friends.
Through it all, she kept repeating the phrase that had become her personal mantra: “Keep fighting and keep positive.”
It has been more than two years since Patti’s breast cancer diagnosis. Since then, she has attended two Cancer Survivors Day celebrations as a self-described “newbie” awed by 10- and 20-year survivors. She realizes the type of cancer she had will more than likely lead her down more rocky roads as the chance of a reoccurrence is high. But that’s OK, she says; she knows what to expect now. No matter what path her journey takes, she still has her sisterhood—her sisterhood of hope.
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