Pamela Nanton, Philadelphia
One day in May 2005 while I was in the shower, I noticed a lump. I wasn’t really checking my breast. I just came across it. I went to the doctor and he said let’s get you in for a mammogram. I didn’t go, though. I kept on working my busy schedule and traveling for work. I had a trip planned to El Salvador and went back to the doctor for a check-up. He said, “I don’t see any mammogram results in your file yet.” So I finally went…
Every time I started to get dressed after the mammogram I would be called back in for more pictures. After three or four times I thought they didn’t know what they were doing. It never occurred to me that there was a problem.
Fear and ignorance kept me from returning the call to get the results. Several days later I got the news that it was breast cancer and that I should talk to a breast surgeon. The surgeon I met with was using words that were over my head and he just kept talking. I didn’t understand anything he said. In my head all I heard was white noise, like the sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher talking.
Thank God I had brought my girlfriend with me who took notes. I called my mom and she prayed for me. A friend of the family knew a surgeon in Atlanta where I was living at the time, and his amazing bedside manner made a big difference.
I needed my family around me. My mom came and stayed with me for ten days. On the 11th day my sister arrived. My mom was there for the surgery and my sister stayed while I was healing. It was all so surreal. I was really thrown when my hands turned black and the texture of the skin changed from the chemo. While I was in treatment I heard from two cousins who both said they had had breast cancer long ago. They never said anything until then. I realized right then and there that I was going to be an advocate and be upfront about it. I’m a bold person. I wore my head bald for three months.
I come from a praying, spiritual family. My sister is a minister. I was reminded of Ecclesiastes: “There is a time to cry and a time to laugh.” I could ask Jesus “Why me?” but I tried to flip it around as often as possible and say “Why not me?”
For almost three years afterwards, my surgeon gave my phone number to newly diagnosed women. There’s a difference between sympathy and empathy. If you can empathize with me, that means you can understand me on a deeper level and I can talk with you. I think it’s important for us to be able to have that connection with one another … to say “Hey, I had that and I’m here to tell you that it’s been ten years.”
At Kenworth of Pennsylvania / Motor Truck Equipment Company, employees are driven to give back to their communities and help those in need. Leadership at this Cumberland County company decided to invite all employees to make a donation to the PBCC by way of payroll deduction, and company matched every gift—totaling an incredible gift of $7,620 to help survivors receive the resources and services needed to navigate their diagnosis!
The PBCC is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the owners and employees at Kenworth, and a special thanks goes out to Tonya Karcher, HR Manager for her work in organizing the first year of this fundraiser. Your thoughtfulness and hard work helps us continue on our mission to “find a cure now, so our daughter’s won’t have to.” Thank you for making a difference in the lives of breast cancer survivors and their families.
Would your company like to do a fundraiser for the PBCC? Contact Kristen@PABreastCancer.org to get started.
Cuddle In-Home Creative Play programs provide enrichment and creative play for young children with parents battling cancer. A team of Program Administrators provide FREE, in-home support for 6 weeks/12 sessions (or more) incorporating organized activities such as arts, crafts, games, journaling, singing and other fun for young children. The in-home program is offered in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties (Montgomery, Delaware, Chester, Bucks) but other services are offered statewide, including the Backpacks Program.
The Cuddle Backpacks Program supports families with cancer through with CMK backpacks that are filled with keepsake craft items. These bags were designed for families who are not able to take advantage of the in-home support services. Cuddle Backpacks are given to children who have a parent or sibling with cancer.
For more information, visit www.CuddleMyKids.org
By Pat Halpin-Murphy, President & Founder
The PA Breast Cancer Coalition is dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer. To make that happen, we support researchers in Pennsylvania working every day to investigate the cause, improve treatment and ultimately find the cure for breast cancer. You’re invited to join us Thursday, November 20 at 10:30am at Penn State Hershey Medical Center as we make a major announcement of support for a breast cancer breakthrough right here in our backyard.
The announcement will be made in Penn State Hershey’s 2nd floor Media Center. Attendees can access the room through the main hospital entrance.
We hope you will be there as we move forward in our fight to end breast cancer together.
Be there… be part of history!
This fall, the PBCC’s traveling photo exhibit 67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania returned to Centre County and made its first appearance in Fayette County. Mount Nittany Medical Center’s Lance and Ellen Shaner Cancer Pavilion hosted the exhibit in Centre County. In Fayette, the exhibit traveled to Penn State University’s Eberly Campus. Survivors from both communities told their stories of hope and inspiration, sharing the importance of early detection.
Thank you to the committees in Centre and Fayette Counties for welcoming the PBCC and this important exhibit to your communities, and special thanks to the PA Department of Health for its continued support of 67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania.
Click on the video below for a message from survivors in Centre and Fayette Counties:
Need health insurance? Our free Webinar series continues Tuesday, December 2 at 7:00pm with everything you need to know about the Affordable Care Act. This webinar, presented by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Joanne Grossi, will detail the marketplace insurance choices available. You will learn the key components and features of the Affordable Care Act. We hope you can join us!
Ask questions, get answers!
Tomika Bryant, Montgomery County
It started with me feeling really tired, just no energy, and I thought it was low blood sugar. And then I got an email that the Fox Chase Cancer Center’s mammography van was coming to my husband’s workplace at GlaxoSmithKline. My gynecologist had been telling me to get a mammogram and then the day the van was scheduled, I felt a lump in the shower. I thought I must have been imagining things. I got the mammogram done, told them about the lump I felt, and they saw it. I needed to get a biopsy. That was right before Mother’s Day in 2013.
Afterwards I got a call saying it was triple-negative breast cancer. She started talking about grade and tumor size and I didn’t know what it all meant. I decided to get a second opinion at Penn and wound up having surgery and treatment there. I had a double mastectomy and tram flap for reconstruction. I had to have chemo but no radiation because there was no node involvement. My treatment is all finished now.
Throughout the process, my mother and my husband made sure I was never alone. They asked questions and helped me. I sat my children down and explained everything to them and hoped they would understand. My son couldn’t imagine at the time how mommy could be sick. That didn’t happen. He was afraid. My daughter was all about the pink ribbon and asked a lot of questions. I teach her about looking out for things in her own body.
The whole experience showed me that I’m a lot stronger than I ever thought I was. It gave me a new reason for living and a new voice. I feel like I can conquer anything now. I feel like there are times in our lives when we let fear cripple us. Now after all I’ve gone through I learned that fear is not real. I don’t have time to play with fear.
When it was all done, I said I gave cancer its eviction notice out of my body and apparently it accepted that. I encourage other women to share their stories if they can because you don’t know who you might help. I was blessed because I had a large village of people who stepped in to help.
24 hours. Endless possibilities. The PBCC is participating in the Extraordinary Give next Friday, November 21! The Extra Give is a 24-hour giving marathon during which donors have the opportunity to contribute to the PBCC and the Lancaster County Community will give a little extra to increase the donation. Every penny donated to the Coalition will support Pennsylvania breast cancer researchers. Take part in the Extra Give next Friday and bring us closer to a cure!
Contest alert! After you’ve donated, share the news using #PBCCGive on social media and we’ll send you a Coalition t-shirt! Share it and wear it!