(July 6, 2018) Catherine Read sits down with Joyce Connery on Kitchen Table Conversations for a candid discussion about surviving breast cancer. Ten years after her diagnosis, Joyce shares insights and observations about being both a cancer patient and a survivor.
Joyce received her diagnosis in 2006, when she was only 36 years old. At a routine physical, her doctor recommended that she get a mammogram done so it could be used as a baseline for the future. Joyce was surprised at the recommendation, considering she had no history of breast cancer in her family, but heeded her physician’s advice and went ahead with the scan. She was stunned when the doctor found something he was concerned about. After a biopsy indicated it was in fact cancer, Joyce and her husband had to absorb the difficult news and forge a path forward.
She immediately began to read as much as she could on the subject, so she could approach the challenge with her eyes wide open. Joyce soon realized that her diagnosis affected not only her, but also the people around her – family, friends and coworkers. It was difficult for her to accept the fact that she was not in control of her own destiny, not matter how hard to she tried to believe that she was. She read books and consulted with doctors, but what she learned was that there was no set answer of exactly how to move forward. Many of her treatment options had similar statistical outcomes, so she had to make the decisions that were right for her.
Joyce felt very fortunate that she had such a strong support network, many of whom offered to help her throughout her treatment. Friends and family brought food to her home, drove her to chemo treatments and provided moral support when she was down. Because she was very public about her diagnosis and treatment, she learned to accept help and support when she needed it most. With one in eight women in the United States being diagnosed with breast cancer, chances are that a friend, family member or coworker you know will receive a diagnosis. Each patient is may have different needs, so Joyce urges people to listen to their friends and family and provide support where and when it is needed most. She points out that there is no “cookie-cutter” scenario – everyone’s story is unique.
Joyce is happy to report that she has been cancer free (from the doctor’s perspective “no evidence of cancer”) for the past 10 years. Each milestone that is hit without a reoccurrence is another positive step forward. Thanks to better treatment options and earlier detection of the disease, many more women are surviving breast cancer and living full and happy lives. On the heels of finishing her chemotherapy treatments, Joyce decided to raise money for breast cancer treatment and research by participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer – a two-day, 39.3-mile journey through the streets of DC. When her friends heard she was signed up for this challenge, many joined her to form “Team Joyce”. Surrounded by her strong support network, she completed the journey, and although still weak from treatment found solidarity and strength in accomplishing her goal.