Superhero Breast Cancer Survivor: Patricia Cronin

Posted by Olivia Gampel on

1 week before my 35th birthday. Happy Fu&king Birthday, to me.

Told by Patricia Cronin herself.

 It was the 4th of July weekend. It was a Friday night. I was lying in bed and had an itch on my breast. While scratching it, I felt a lump in my right breast. I immediately went over to my left breast, no lump. So I knew something was wrong. Very wrong. It would have been normal if I had 2 lumps, if they were both in the same spot on each side. But I only had 1. And it felt hard.

I panicked. Cancer? Nope. No. Not cancer. How can it be? Calm down. 

 It’s hard to keep your thoughts from spiraling out of control, though. So I needed someone to calm me down, so I called my BFF. No answer. So I left my usual, long-winded voicemail, except this time in a super shaker voice and trying to unsuccessfully hold back tears. 

"Hey, how's it going, blah blah blah, happy 4th, call me back & oh yea I found a lump in my breast & I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be there, I don’t know if it’s cancer or not, we’ll see. Ok, love you, call me  back. bye!"

 And I’m alone again. In my kitchen in my small apartment. I somehow turned it around and got myself to calm down, and let’s see what happens. Control what you can right now. Rest of the weekend was spent organizing/cleaning my apartment, and snuggling with my 2 fur babies. (I had to stay away from people for my own sanity).

 Tuesday morning I went into work, normal Tuesday after a long holiday weekend. Called my Dr. (PCP) and informed them of my discovery. I had an appointment that afternoon. (The nurse on the phone was way more concerned than me. Because I was like, it’s not cancer, just a lump....). I remember my PCP seeing me & then she referred me to another Dr. To have a biopsy down (which hurt like hell & left quite the bruise). 

 My PCP called me a few days later & asked me to come in around noon time to see her. But your office is closed from 12-130, so why am I coming in at noon? Or I think she said get here when you can...... oh sh&t.

 “You have cancer.”

Terrified, scared, shocked, cheated, utter fear. Angry (for just a second, but yeah I was angry for a minute). 

My whole world was completely turned upside down in a matter of seconds. I’m someone who needs to have control over things, and I suddenly had no control over anything. My world was utter chaos.  It was fu&king terrifying. 

 “Am I going to die?” was my immediate response to my team of doctors. 

 I can remember that day like it was yesterday. 

What about kids? I didn’t even know if I wanted them, I think I did, but are they even possible anymore? Or is that decision now being made for me? I wanted to decide if I had any or not, not cancer. That’s not your decision to make. 

Family and friends. They were all amazing. They all allowed me to be as independent as I could be, and then were there when I needed help and couldn’t (or didn’t want to ask)ask for it. 

 They took turns taking me to chemo (I couldn’t drive afterwards so I needed someone to take me), they sat next to me for hours & kept me company, and provided some distraction during infusions. We laughed, cried, and watched some TV. They let me sleep when I couldn’t stay awake anymore. 

They made me meals. 

They went out for dinner with me at 430/5pm, because my cell counts were always low right after treatment so I had to avoid crowds. So early dinner it is! 

She shaved my head for me. And then held me as I cried in her arms afterwards. Losing your hair, that really really is the hardest part. I already lost a breast, which honestly I didn’t really care too much about, take them both I begged my surgeon. But losing your hair.... that’s pretty hard. That’s hard. And they tell you that it’s the hardest part for a lot of patients and you think yeah ok, it’s just hair. And then you realize it’s so much more than that. It’s another part of you that you're losing against your will. 

She drove 7 hours to be right by my side for my first surgery (mastectomy ) because I was completely terrified.

They all took care of me, in their own way. Always watching to make sure I didn’t overdo it after treatments and got plenty of rest. They watched TV with me, when at times that’s all I had energy to do. 

In that respect, I was extremely lucky. And so very thankful to have each and every one of them. 

They joined me in my very first cancer walk (as a patient, during my “off” week of chemo) and helped me to exceed my fundraising goal. We might have walked slow at times, but dammit we finished that walk! So proud to have them all by my side for that moment. 

And they were there to fix my wig if it ever shifted and looked awkward.... and also my fake boob, which was known to sometimes fall out of place, especially while swimming with a group of your friends and their significant others . I really do have the best tribe. 

When I completed chemo, it was then into 36 rounds of radiation. On my first visit, after being instructed on where to lay, completely still, the nurses went to leave the room. I begged them, crying like a baby, tears just falling down my face, I begged to please don’t leave me, and was it going to hurt? I wouldn’t let them leave the room that first time, I kept asking them to wait because I wasn't ready yet. I was yet again, completely terrified. This is the stuff nightmares are made of.

It didn’t hurt.

I think my biggest obstacle, just dealing with cancer in general, was deciding how I was going to deal with it. How am I going to handle this?

I can either get angry and hate the world because I have cancer. OR

I can face it head on and fight through it. So I choose the latter.

I wanted my life back & was going to do everything necessary to get it back.

So I followed my treatment plan. Which, other than the emotional toll it took on me at times, was pretty easy. I just had to make the decision to show up when I needed to.

And I did so with a little bit of sarcasm, and always having a sense of humor. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

For me, anyway. I wasn’t going to let cancer get or keep me down. 

I made cancer my bit&h! And I kicked it’s a$$.
Life is what you make it, good & bad. 

So make it a great one!!

Today Patricia is 8 years free.

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