When Cathy Payne was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, her first question wasn’t “Why me?” It was, “How are we going to fix this?”
Because she is younger than the suggested age to begin yearly mammograms, Cathy actually discovered the lump herself during a routine breast self-exam. Being a Parkland employee, Cathy knew she was in good hands. She started six years ago in patient registration, later worked in the emergency department and is now a patient access representative.
Cathy’s work experience gave her a unique perspective on her diagnosis. “Working in the ED, I saw people who were very, very sick,” she says. “So my perspective was, ‘I’m not sick, I just have cancer.’”
Cathy went through a robust course of treatment – five months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, 26 radiation treatments, and then reconstruction surgery followed by maintenance chemotherapy.
Cathy says Parkland Cancer Center is a very friendly place. “Many patients see each other on a daily basis and get to know each other -- talking, sharing stories, sharing recipes,” she says. “The volunteers play a huge role. They get to know the patients and the families that bring them to treatment. It becomes a little family in itself.”
Cathy definitely had her low times where she felt like giving up. “The support I got from my family, my work family and the nurses was huge in keeping me going,” she says. “It kept me fighting and allowed me to be so positive.”
When the Parkland Cancer Center moved to its current location in Farmington, Cathy was chosen to cut the ribbon at the grand opening. “I was so honored to be chosen,” she says. “Out of all of the patients who have come and gone from our cancer center, I was very touched that they chose me. After the phone call, I cried.”
Cathy is quick to encourage others and speaks freely about her experience. “Cancer is different for everyone,” she says. “You can’t say, ‘I have exactly what she had and I want to do what she did.’ Cancer is individual. But if something I did can encourage or give them confidence, then I want them to know.”
Cathy has words of wisdom for other women diagnosed with breast cancer. “If you think there is something abnormal, even if it’s the tiniest thing, don’t be scared to go in and ask. It may be nothing; it could be something. But cancer is just a word like diabetes or COPD – these are things that can be treatable. Things have changed so much; nowadays, it is beatable, it is doable.”
To schedule your mammogram at Parkland Health Center, call 573.760.8460.