GREENVILLE, Pa. (WKBN) – Greenville resident Cathy Petty is going to be a grandmother soon, but her future was not so certain five years ago when she was first diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.
Now, the mother of three is celebrating a benchmark in her own journey and paying it forward to others in her shoes.
Petty said her shoe box full of cards that she has saved since her cancer diagnosis has helped her through some dark times. Petty pulled a card out of the box and flipped through the words of encouragement.
“Thinking of you, praying for you,” she read.
These notes are tangible reminders of everything she is fighting for and they are something to hold onto, even after the hand that wrote them is gone.
“This was from my sister-in-law, who has since passed from cancer. She said, ‘See, someone else knows how you feel. Hang in there,'” she said.
It has been a long road since Petty’s doctor told her the news on August 14, 2010.
“I got the phone call from her personally, and she said, ‘I just wanted to let you know that you have cancer,'” Petty recalled.
The details are still fresh in her mind.
“I had a very large tumor that encompassed over 60 percent of my breast issue,” she said, showing pictures of her head, bald from the cancer treatments.
Two weeks later, Petty had a mastectomy on her left breast and reconstructive surgery. Then came nearly six months of active treatment, losing her hair to chemotherapy and radiation.
“People that you see all the time who didn’t know, they don’t know what to say. And so that was probably the hardest part, that actual public acknowledgment that you are ill,” Petty said.
In private, her husband Bob and their three children feared the worst.
“I know I could have never been as strong,” Bob said.
But Cathy worried more about her family and their future than herself.
“For me, it became all about getting back to a sense of normal and what was the new normal going to be,” she said.
That new normal includes raising money for the American Cancer Society and walking in the survivor lap at Relay for Life.
“That very first year, it was so emotional, and it’s still emotional now,” Petty said.
Petty and her friends collected more than $40,000 in just the last two years.
“With all of us on the team, our focus is on finding a cure,” she said.
Until then, her goal is simple: share her experience with others by reaching out, as so many did to her.
“Don’t be afraid to just be a friend or just be there for someone, because it is needed whenever you’re going through the struggle,” she said. “It’s really good to talk to somebody who’s been there.”
Petty has spent hours talking with other women diagnosed with breast cancer — even writing a blog about her own journey. Now, she’s looking forward to the next season of life — meeting her grandson Blake, due in January.
In the meantime, Cathy wears pink every day in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and she encourages other women to complete routine breast exams.
“By doing a self breast exam, I was able to say that there was something that wasn’t right, even though it wasn’t a lump, and that helped me alert to the doctor as well,” she said. “So I still do them. I still feel it’s important to do them.”
WKBN 27 First News encourages all women to complete routine self exams. Sign up for WKBN’s Buddy Check initiative to get monthly reminders.