Just three years ago, Patty Lawlor was focused on a career in Finance that she enjoyed and spending her free time travelling. Patty has visited cities in Canada, France, Spain, England, Ireland, Budapest, Austria, Italy, Mexico and Brazil; she even lived in Tokyo from 2006-2008, during which time she travelled to various locations throughout Asia.
Patty’s life changed in August 2011 after a routine breast cancer screening. While her mammogram didn’t show any cancer, the breast ultrasound showed something that required further investigation. Doctors did a biopsy as a precaution. Patty was at work when she got the call: the biopsy was malignant. She followed up with a pet scan that showed the cancer had already spread. Patty had Stage 4 breast cancer.
Doctors determined that Patty had estrogen receptive breast cancer, and in October of 2011 she had a surgery followed by a regimen of anti-estrogen medications and chemotherapies. Unfortunately, her tumors continued to grow.
Five months later— and still unreceptive to all of the treatments—Patty continued to experience fear about her health. Although her family was supportive, she needed to speak with people who had been through a similar situation, and with whom she could express her fears and concerns. Patty joined Gilda’s Club Westchester. “I had, and still have, good support from my family and friends, but I often felt I had to reassure them that I would be fine. Here I can talk about things I wouldn’t discuss in front of my family because I wouldn’t want to upset them.”
The day after joining Gilda’s Club, Patty suffered another setback. She had been experiencing bouts of dizziness so her doctors did a brain MRI. Back at work that afternoon, Patty got another devastating call: doctors discovered a low-grade glioma—a brain tumor that remains stable and is unrelated to her breast cancer diagnosis.
In March 2013, Patty underwent whole brain radiation to treat newly discovered brain metastases. It was during this time she made the difficult decision to stop working in order to focus on her health.
Patty has been coming to Gilda’s for two and half years, and has participated in various wellness activities including yoga, and workshops on self-hypnosis and acupuncture; she also attends the weekly Living with Cancer Group. “We talk about everything: treatments, side effects, upcoming tests, and the impact cancer has on work and on our families… at times we also laugh about things,” Patty says of her weekly group. “In addition to all of the information we exchange I get so much emotional support, which is the biggest benefit.”
Patty is still undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, and is seeing positive results from a new drug she’s been taking for the past five months. Patty doesn’t inquire about her prognosis with her doctors, instead she relies on her faith and takes it day-by-day. Her motto is: Expect the best. Because the breast cancer has been responsive to her new medication, Patty is feeling more positive and healthy these days. And though she hasn’t begun treatment for her brain tumor yet, it remains stabilized. “Before I was diagnosed I had planned a two-week trip to the Galapagos Islands. I’ve still got my whole trip mapped out on a spreadsheet, and in the back of my mind someday I’m going to go.”