Breast, Thyroid, Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
Patty was an athlete growing up. So competing against opponents came naturally. Unfortunately, her first opponent as an adult was like none she’d ever faced. It was breast cancer. She won that battle, but four years later began to experience pain in her side. An MRI from her family doctor revealed a tumor on her pancreas. The good news: her doctor advised her to go to Moffitt Cancer Center.
Patty’s next opponent was a discouraging outlook. She recalls, “It was inoperable at first and I was told this isn’t very good.” Thinking about her family, Patty refused to give in. Following chemo and radiation, her surgeon, Dr. Malafa, was able to remove most of her pancreas and spleen, giving her a measure of hope. Yet—as if that weren’t enough—she was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“I’ve got three children,” Patty says, “and I thought, ‘If I’m going out, I’m going out with an attitude so they remember it.’” She points to her nurse practitioner who called often to check up on her, and Dr. Malafa, who believed in Patty, convincing her to keep up the fight. She also credits family and friends who took her to appointments and gave her the strength to push through exhausting chemo treatments.
As Patty’s cancer reached her neck, she surveyed her to-do list. Together with her sister and four friends, they executed her 20-year quest to travel the legendary Route 66—an incredible journey that stretched eight days and 2,400 miles, staying in quirky motels and meeting amazing people. Some were fighting their own battles, yet were quick to offer hugs and support as they shared their stories.
Their epic trip also included a meditative stop at the Grand Canyon and the chance to dip their toes in the Pacific Ocean. Her bucket-list adventure came with plenty of much-needed laughs, too. “I don’t think cancer cells like laughter,” she jokes. It’s the kind of spirit that helped her bounce back at every brutal phase of her cancer journey.
To date Patty has withstood radiation, surgery and some 45 rounds of chemo. Not surprisingly, she’s grateful for each new day she can wake up and make a difference, using her experiences to spread awareness and positivity to other pancreatic cancer patients.
“You do what you have to do to survive,” Patty says. “You never give up hope. If I had given up, I don’t think I’d be here today.”