We’re kicking off Breast Cancer Awareness month with a story that inspires us and reminds our readers why promoting awareness is so important. One in every eight women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime. Gay Wilson is one of those women. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for stage III breast cancers is about 72%. Today, Gay is a cancer survivor for over a decade and just weeks ago her screenings came back normal again.
Gay has always understood the importance of these screenings because of her background as an RN and her family’s history of breast cancer. The Registered Nurse and Compensation Case Manager started getting mammograms when she was 25 years old.
Piedmont Medical Center was the first hospital in the region to offer 3D mammograms. When she was working as the Worker’s Compensation Coordinator at the medical center, employees were invited to sign up for a screening to test a new digital MRI machine – Gay received the second to last available slot.
The new machine could catch rare types of tumors not detected in regular mammograms, and for Gay that changed everything. Her tests had always come back negative before, but her MRI showed that Gay had a tumor developing and she was experiencing stage III breast cancer.
Soon after, Gay had surgery and started her chemotherapy treatment. Today she credits the physicians she works with at Piedmont Medical Center for recognizing the problem and ultimately, saving her life.
And since then, Gay hasn’t stopped sharing her survival story to bring courage to women in the community who are reluctant to get a screening or are facing a cancer diagnosis. Here are three hopeful lessons and some important advice:
1. Never give up.
Following her diagnosis, Gay went into surgery as quickly as possible. She had her tumor removed in less than a week and was able to start her chemotherapy treatment with Dr. Kashyap Patel at Carolina Blood and Cancer Care in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
“A person sometimes faces difficult decisions in life, but what matters is how well they deal with the situation,” Gay tells her colleagues at Piedmont. “You have a choice to do something about your situation or to give up. My choice is always to face my issue and try to overcome it.”
Gay, her best friend, and husband met with Dr. Patel to discuss her treatment plan before beginning her 15 month long chemotherapy treatment. She continued working while she was undergoing chemo and radiation treatment.
“My desire to survive kept me motivated to push through the treatment,” Gay explains. She went for chemotherapy on Fridays so she would be stable enough to return to work on Mondays. “It was actually therapeutic for me to work because the radiation treatment made me really tired. Working helped me press through that tiredness,” she shares.
2. No one should face cancer alone.
After her diagnosis, Gay enlisted her husband and best friend who were supportive and involved throughout her treatment. Since then, she’s able to support and connect with other cancer survivors and patients in their own recovery journeys.
Gay has been active in a post-cancer yoga class offered at Piedmont where guests and patients who have been in remission for over a year can participate for a small fee. “Most survivors are probably a little afraid of yoga because it brings to mind pictures of people contorting themselves into unnatural positions,” she says. “They need to know this is gentle stretching, strengthening, and soothing with breathing exercises. It was recommended by my oncologist and it’s a good place to meet other survivors to support each other.”
And having a support system is something Gay is passionate about. “Open up to family members about your condition because they worry about your health as much as you do,” Gay shares. She also urges cancer patients and survivors to find support groups where they can share their stories during the most difficult times.
3. Face your fear and get tested.
Gay is able to share and inspire us because she was open to regular breast cancer screenings and understood their value. “It is important to face your fear of getting tested,” Gay says.
She wasn’t afraid of getting the MRI when physicians at Piedmont Medical Center invited her because her results had always been negative in the past. Now she regularly communicates the importance of facing this fear and getting tested, even for women who are reluctant.
Join in the Discussion
Keeping a dialogue around breast cancer is important to promoting awareness, early screenings and treatment. Gay’s story may sound a lot like your own or someone you know. Breast Cancer Awareness month means something different to all of us. After all, one in every eight women are diagnosed, and those women touch a lot of lives.
Comment in our latest discussion of this post on LinkedIn to thank Gay for sharing her story with Angel MedFlight, or to share what Breast Cancer Awareness month means to you, your friends, and your family.
Want more information?
The National Breast Cancer Foundation is honoring Breast Cancer Awareness month by sharing a free Healthy Living and Personal Risk Guide. Download it here.
Legal Disclaimer: This post was current at the time it was published or provided via the web and is designed to provide accurate information on the subject covered. Cancer treatment approaches change frequently so links to the source documents have been provided within the document for your reference. The information provided is only intended to be a general overview with the understanding that Angel MedFlight is not engaged in rendering specific advice on cancer treatment. It is not intended to take the place of proper research and fact finding and is presented as a third-party opinion.