Faces of Cancer: Breast cancer saves West Richland woman's life

By Andy Perdue, Tri-City HeraldOctober 15, 2011 

WEST RICHLAND -- When Patt Mosley sees pink this month, she doesn't cry anymore. Four years ago, that wasn't the case.

The 41-year-old West Richland woman was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2007.

At the time, the Hanford High School graduate was living in Portland with her husband and 2-year-old son.

"That day is seared into my mind," she said. "I was only 37, and I was diagnosed four days before 'the pink month.' "

Emotionally, she was trying to wrap her head around the fact that she had breast cancer, and then it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

"I cried every day. It was salt in the wound," she said.

One day, she called her husband from the grocery store because a can of soup had a pink label.

"He asked me what kind of soup it was," she said with a laugh. "Then they put it in a pink bag! It was a rough 31 days. Luckily, I was medicated for more than half of it."

As it turned out, breast cancer was the least of her concerns.

In fact, it might just have saved her life.

After she endured a bilateral mastectomy, a scan revealed a hot spot under Mosley's sternum. It was thymoma, cancer of the thymus gland -- and it was nasty. It was starting to wrap itself around her lungs, nerves and arteries.

"It was a totally different cancer, unrelated to breast cancer," she said. "This tumor would have killed me. I was lucky to have breast cancer because I had no symptoms. If not for the breast cancer, I would not have known about this other tumor."

A planned three-hour surgery ended up taking nine hours. Even then, doctors couldn't get it all.

Mosley next faced chemotherapy. She wasn't worried about going bald -- "I look good without hair" -- but she was deathly fearful of throwing up.

During chemo, she had a severe allergic reaction to one of the drugs, which nearly killed her. In a two-year period, she went through chemo, radiation and seven surgeries, including removing her ovaries to reduce further risk of cancer.

Throughout the ordeal, her strength came from her family, including her husband, Duke, and son, Gannon.

"When you're faced with your own mortality, you have to dig deep and figure out whether you're going to die or say, 'I'm going to do what I have to do.' I looked at my son and decided to just take it as it came," she said. "It's been rough. Nothing about having cancer is easy, but 80 percent of the battle is having a good attitude."

When she would get down, Mosley used humor to prop herself up. At one point, she had gained 20 pounds from the steroids she used to handled the medicine, and she had lost all her hair. She turned to her husband and said, "Did you ever imagine you'd be married to bald, overweight freak with no eyebrows?"

All of her treatments and surgeries took place in Portland. Two years ago, she moved back to the Tri-Cities to live near her family, and she now works for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in marketing and communications.

And while the color pink doesn't make her cry anymore, it does leave her wondering.

"I think it's great that there is a lot of awareness, and I own a lot of pink stuff," she said. "On the flip side, I'm becoming more cynical. They've taken this very serious disease and commercialized it. Do they truly care about breast cancer awareness, or are they trying to leverage the disease for a profit?"

Either way, she's proud to be a survivor, but she's ready to move on.

"I'm grateful for those who are campaigning. At the same time, I want to live my life and not let cancer control it."

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service