State Senator Pat Ward died last week after a three year battle with breast cancer. Many people knew about Ward’s diagnosis – but few knew about the type of breast cancer she had.
Pat Prijatel is doing what she can to educate and encourage others who are dealing with the disease. She's a professor and a writer. She’s also a wife, mother, grandmother and survivor.
Prijatel was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2006. Weeks later she would learn she was dealing with a disease she hadn’t even known existed. “What was going through my head was utter and total confusion," she says, "I’d never heard of this kind of breast cancer and the doctor told me it was aggressive, so I was confused and scared.”
Prijatel had “triple negative” breast cancer. It’s a sub-type of breast cancer that affects about twenty percent of all those who have breast cancer and it is negative for what are called ‘receptors’ – hormone receptors. That means there is no targeted treatment and TNBC acts differently than other types of breast cancer.
“I wanted more information, I needed more information," Prijatel explains, "I really needed to understand it better." It makes sense since she's been researching and writing for forty years. "Yes, being a journalist helped, being a college professor helped. I was really in a perfect position to make sense out of this and then I thought – I should explain this to other people, and I thought I was in a good position to do that because I could talk the talk. I’ve been a patient so I know what people are frightened about, I know what they need to know more about, I know what confuses them and I know what they really want to know."
It started with a blog – “The Positives About Negative” – with posts entitled “Pat’s Breast Is Here”, “Don’t Define Me By My Cancer” and “I Hate Bras”.
“One of the top search terms that gets people to my blog is “can you survive triple negative”… so I know there are women out there who are just terrified, who have been told it’s lethal, deadly, and thinking they are not going to beat it."
Prijatel’s book “Surviving Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Hope, Treatment and Recovery” was published a few weeks ago. It’s a sad coincidence that Senator Ward’s death also happened during breast cancer awareness month. “You know – it seemed to me that she went on with her life – and I think that’s a really important message. We’re all going to die of something and it could happen tomorrow."
That attitude – and a simple phrase spoken by a doctor, "It's not that bad," helped carry Prijatel though. She hopes to be that sort of support for others who are facing their own diagnosis and the wide range of feelings that come with it.
You can read Professor Prijatel's blog here: http://hormonenegative.blogspot.com/
She'll also be sharing her story and signing copies of her book November 2nd at 6:30pm at Beaverdale Books.
Senator Ward will be honored at this Saturday’s “Race for the Cure”. Her family has asked that donations be made to the John Stoddard Cancer Center.