MILLEDGEVILLE — Cancer obviously takes no prisoners. The deadly disease attacks whom it wants when it wants.
Patti Weimer, athletics administrative assistant at Georgia College’s Centennial Center, is everyone’s go-to lady. The nicest person in GC athletics got terrible news during early spring 2011.
Weimer went for a yearly mammogram checkup. The doctor noticed an irregularity and called for a biopsy.
“The biopsy came back that it was breast cancer. That happened within 10 days,” Weimer said.
The tumor was a fast growing Grade 3 form requiring immediate surgery.
The doctor used a newer treatment on Weimer. Radioactive dye went into the tumor site, which then transfers the dye to the lymph nodes.
Fortunately, the cancer hadn’t spread, so the baseball-sized tumor was removed.
HER2-positive breast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other types. Weimer still needed chemotherapy combined with radiation.
Six chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments knocked back any appetite.
“Even water tasted like dirt to me,” Weimer said. “To keep me from going into the hospital getting so sick nurses would pump me full of fluids, and I’d make it through.”
Other side effects like hair loss came along.
Still on the job at Georgia College, Weimer said a wig made people more comfortable.
“People are funny about seeing you not feeling well,” she said.
Jokes helped the journey back. Weimer finished the final chemo treatment that August and ditched the wig before 2012.
Recovery took longer than expected because Weimer lost weight and felt worn down. Mental daily activities were a struggle too.
“They talk about chemo brain. For me, there was truly a chemo brain,” Weimer said. “I was just foggy and still have some amnesia about events that happened in that time.”
Personal and college work family supported Weimer throughout the process.
Georgia College’s Wellness and Recreation Center on West Campus served as Weimer’s physical and mental rebirth.
She joined Georgia College’s community Cancer Wellness Program called “Survive and Thrive.” The free oncology program helps cancer patients improve quality of life by addressing challenging treatment side effects.
Weimer still took cancer preventive medication that allowed her to take part.
Physical and mental conditioning rebuilt muscle and energy.
“It got me strong again. Had I not had that I don’t think I would have gotten as strong as quickly,” she said. “The recovery would have been slower.”
The program also features spiritual components helping lighten the soul as well as nutrition and cancer coping skills. Yoga, pool time and meditation were components of the holistic approach.
“It’s amazing how much better I felt because of it,” Weimer said.
Weimer has enjoyed growing close to other wellness partners. The survivors still stick together.
“We all look for each other when someone is not there. It’s a good group,” Weimer said. “I’d recommend it to anybody going through cancer. It makes you say ‘I can be successful at beating this.’”
Bone marrow checks and the five-year pill to help reduce a breast cancer recurrence remain the routine for Weimer. The HER2 cancer strain has a higher risk for a return.
Weimer is thankful for her doctors and new lifestyle that make that possibility slim.
“Through diet and exercise, I try not to worry about it,” Weimer said. “I try real hard not to dwell on it. I’ve got (my son) Andrew who is 14 going on 15 years old. I’ve also got a grandbaby. There are a lot of things to stick around for.”
Consistent checkups and mammograms form a proactive approach.
The cancer survivor encourages all women to get a mammogram.
“People that are afraid of them drive me crazy. If we hadn’t done my mammogram, they never would have found this until it was too late,” Weimer said. “They aren’t scary. It’s uncomfortable for a few seconds. It’s well worth it to get it done and get piece of mind.”
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