|Breast cancer tests Dresden woman’s true strength |
|Posted: Friday, October 14, 2011 12:02 pm |
Sometimes a person doesn’t know his or her own strength until it is tested.
SURVIVOR – Thankful for each day on Earth Laird managed to keep smiling throughout her ordeal and is proud to celebrate another ‘birthday’ this month.
It is only then that a person either decides to fight or chooses to give in to the pressure.
When Pat Laird was told she had breast cancer almost exactly one year ago on Oct. 30, 2010, she chose to do the former. But, really, it wasn’t a choice for her. It was a given. A strength she wasn’t yet aware of was fueling her drive.
After not going to the doctor for 12 years because she never felt sick, Laird had a physical exam last October and it was there that a knot was discovered in her breast. The mammogram revealed the knot in more detailed form and the biopsy came back positive for cancer.
“At first, I was scared. The word ‘cancer’ scares you. My husband and I cried out in the parking lot, but that was it. We knew we could do it,” she said.
She immediately contacted close friend Katrina Cobb. Having been through cancer herself, Cobb was able to answer some of Laird’s questions and provide support. Already sharing the exact same birthday, the two friends now shared a sisterhood in fighting cancer.
And Laird hardly had time to think about it as one week later, she was organizing and riding in the annual Veteran’s Parade as part of Rolling Thunder® TN Chapter 6.
The following Tuesday, facing several treatment options, Laird ultimately chose to have a mastectomy as there would be less chance of the cancer coming back.
“After I cried that first time, there were other times I could have cried like when they took my bandages off after the mastectomy or when I first looked in the mirror after losing my hair, but I just thought, ‘Oh, there’s MegaMind,’” she said. “I can deal with this.”
Laird was already beginning to recognize her inner strength and had the support of friends, family members and co-workers. Having worked at Movies to Go for around 13 years, her customers also became part of the support system. Having supported her former boss, Danny Spencer, through Relay For Life during his battle with cancer, this past Relay For Life event had a special significance for Laird as she was honored during the survivor’s lap by pink T-shirt-wearing Rolling Thunder bikers, her “other family,” who had come to support her.
Laird has been an active member of Rolling Thunder® TN Chapter 6 since its inception three years ago. This was the first year the organization had a Relay For Life team. Members donned pink T-shirts to surprise Laird that evening.
“The prayers and the support kept me upbeat and I had no reason not to be upbeat,” Laird admitted. “I have no family history of cancer either. That was one of the biggest surprises.”
Laird’s strength and attitude would be tested again, however, as a lump was found in her neck in April. Having already had a chemotherapy port inserted on Feb. 14, the number of treatments jumped from four to nine, but she avoided radiation.
“I thought, ‘Am I a sponge?’ I didn’t know how to take it, but to just deal with it and it was caught early, so it was treatable,” she said.
Laird’s hair fell out on March 16, her sister Wanda Tyler’s birthday. She completed her final chemotherapy treatment on May 30. At the end of July, she was declared cancer free upon her return from a family vacation to Disneyworld. Coming back from a magical vacation, she received magical news.
“It was so awesome. It was a relief for me and everyone else who was worried,” she said.
Laird said in the beginning, telling one of her very close family members proved challenging.
“The hardest part of learning I had cancer was telling Sabrina. From the very beginning. She was pregnant at the time. I didn’t like seeing the worried look on her face, but I convinced her I would be okay.”
For those fighting cancer now, Laird offers hope.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel. Treat every day like it’s your last day,” she remarked.
As an advocate for early detection, Laird stresses self examination and yearly checkups with no long skips between checkups.
Through it all, she managed to keep faith, hope and above all, a smile on her face.
“The biggest support was my husband,” she said.
“He went with me to every appointment, was very patient and went through everything with me. I’ve learned I’m stronger than I thought I was. I look at things more positively now because my outlook has changed.
“Even when the sun isn’t shining, every day is still a beautiful day.”