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April 2016 Survivor of the Month – Pat Straw
by Robert McNamara
April is a hopeful time of the year. Soon the city of Savannah will be beaming in a sea of pink, with a host of blushing azaleas in bloom and a flurry of ribbons for the upcoming Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Each year, the race takes on a meaning that is unique for everyone who experiences it, but for survivor Pat Straw, in many ways, it represents a commitment to health that she has had in her life for many years.
There are many words that could be used to describe Pat, but one that comes quickly to mind is active. Both before her diagnosis with breast cancer and since, Pat’s life has been filled with a variety of different ways to have fun and stay in shape. “I was a health 69- year-old enjoying golf, (I) played as much as I could. I (participated in) the YMCA water aerobics for two hours, three times a week. I love gardening, entertaining, just love the outdoors in general. When I wasn’t playing golf, I went to the gym or I played tennis…” Living an active lifestyle is important to overall health, but Pat would learn that it cannot prevent every type of health condition.
In 2013, she would learn that she had breast cancer and begin a journey that would change her life forever. It would be a grueling experience, as Pat would endure mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries, chemotherapy, as well as radiation treatments. During this time, Pat would learn to lean on her family for the support that she needed when the fight was most difficult. “Fortunately my sister from England was visiting… and came with me to my treatments, which helped a lot. Looking forward to spending a whole month with my daughters in Maryland was the best ever. I was so fortunate that I had a wonderful husband who could cook (and take me) to my treatments, and daughters who loved and cared for me and made me feel good. Caregivers get all the credit.”
The journey of each survivor is unique. While there are no battles with cancer that are easy, some are full of unexpected complications. In 2015, nearly two years removed from successfully beating breast cancer, Pat would be diagnosed with cancer in her other breast. In part because of her previous experience, Pat used this as a chance to learn more about the type of cancer that she had and how the options for treatment might be different this time around. “I was a person who wanted to know all about my cancer, so I researched and researched, and found more information about my cancers.” Breast health education and advocacy are two of the many services that Susan G. Komen provides, and for Pat, educating herself was a critical part of her journey. “Breast health education and Komen research are so important to know. It’s hard to understand if you don’t research and get to information about breast cancer and all the information that is at your fingertips.”
Just as she did before her diagnosis, Pat values staying active and living healthy. Though her journey was difficult, Pat has chosen to focus on the positive things that she has learned along the way. “I have made so many new friends due to my cancer. You meet so many wonderful people in the chemo room. And I can say if I had not gotten cancer I wouldn’t have met my friends and Pink sisters I have today. There is always a bad thing that can be turned into a good one. Life is so precious, enjoy every day because you never know what’s around the corner.”