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Beating Fear, Fighting Cancer

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Pat Walker used every ounce of her strength to focus on the words coming from her doctor’s mouth. His compassion was palpable, and she knew he was speaking in complete sentences. Still, she heard just two words: ‘Lung cancer.’

After she peeled herself out of the exam room chair, Pat tried to harness her thoughts. Her reaction had taken her by surprise. “I’m a strong woman, but I realized that I probably reacted the way most people would when they learn they have cancer,” says Pat.

What happened next was a difference-maker in Pat’s recovery. She plowed through the anxiety and depression that often follow a cancer diagnosis and launched into her journey to beat the disease. “I decided I couldn’t afford to be distracted by sadness, so I blocked everything out. I strengthened my emotional reserves, I hunkered down, and I did what I had to do.”

Her first step: get as much information as possible about her cancer. “The only thing more frightening than having cancer is not having enough information,” she says. Pat’s radiation oncologist John Wilson, MD, ordered PET/CT diagnostic imaging that pinpointed the exact location of cancer cells. It even revealed cancer cells that might be still developing. Pat’s next step was to get precisely targeted treatment to arrest her cancer and give her a fighting chance to beat it.

Throughout her treatment, Pat tried to deflect worry from her diabetic husband whose condition made him vulnerable to stress. “Harry and I have been partners in everything throughout our lives, and we are everything to each other,” she explained. “I knew it would be best to keep a sense of normalcy throughout my treatment.”

Pat’s and Harry’s “normal” life was both enviable and well deserved. After forty-plus years in demanding careers, they were getting into the swing of retirement with balmy Florida winters. Pat worked with her physicians to arrange a plan of care that could be followed through in Florida. Pat says: “A cancer diagnosis interrupts your life like few other things can. My team rallied to provide the care I needed on a schedule that worked for us. My doctors, especially Dr. Wilson, made sure we had all the information up front which helped us deal with everything. Thanks to Virtua, my treatment was seamless, and best of all, it’s working.”