Was My Cancer Diagnosis Really a Fluke Like My Oncologist Said?


Prior to my breast cancer diagnosis, my only goal in life was for my son to turn 16 so he could drive me to and from the local bars. Now I can’t help but think that my cancer was meant for me to change my life.

In 2002, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my right breast at the age of 39.

I was a single mother with a 9-year-old son. To say I was scared is an understatement. I underwent a partial mastectomy and lymph node dissection with removal of 21 lymph nodes. Thankfully, only one was cancerous. My subsequent treatment consisted of eight very aggressive chemotherapy courses and 33 radiation treatments in 2003.

Patti McGee, a 20-year breast cancer survivor, poses for a picture following the completion of her first Iron Girl in 2014

Patti McGee, a 20-year breast cancer survivor, poses for a picture following the completion of her first Iron Girl in 2014

After treatment, I asked my oncologist, “What can I do so I never have to go through treatment again?” My oncologist replied, “Nothing. it was a fluke that you got it.”

But I knew I needed to change my life around. I was a heavy drinker and hadn’t liked myself since I was a teenager. I knew I couldn’t live that way anymore.

Shortly after my treatments, I started the post-cancer drug Tamoxifen. After a few short months, there was a day that I sat in front of my refrigerator eating a box of Hostess Ho Ho’s while crying uncontrollably.

I called my oncologist’s office and the nurse practitioner on the other end of the line asked if I was suicidal.

I told her I wasn’t, but I couldn’t stop crying. The nurse practitioner recommended I stop taking the Tamoxifen and to talk with my oncologist at my next appointment.

I had tried the Tamoxifen and three other post-cancer drugs, but I knew I was either going to kill myself or someone else. My breaking point came in March 2005 when I was driving drunk and trying to get to the psychiatric hospital.

It was at that point I knew I needed counseling. Again, I asked my oncologist what the chances of recurrence were if I stopped taking the post-hormone drug therapy and they said, “three to five percent.” I decided to take my chances.

I started reading everything on breast cancer that I could find, and I completely changed my life.

I co-chaired two cancer support groups and began a local relay as part of my healing journey. In 2008, I received my massage therapy license and in 2011, I published a book called, “HOPE An Inspiring A-Z Guide for Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Caregivers.” It was very therapeutic and healing for me.

In 2014, my local Zonta International Club awarded me with the Women of Status Award. Then, March 19, 2014, was declared Patti McGee Day in Oneida, New York. I also completed the Ride for Missing Children and my first Iron Girl sprint triathlon all at the age of 50 that year.

In 2019, I completed a Life Coaching Certification and became a motivational speaker. Now, I love speaking to women and girls about the importance of self-care and how to overcome fears that hold them back from living the life they dream of.

I think I am living proof that there is life after cancer. Prior to my diagnosis of breast cancer, my only goal in life was for my son, Dylan, to turn 16 so he could drive me to and from the local bars. Now, I own the life coaching business, “The Hydrated Life.”

Nothing I have accomplished since my breast cancer diagnosis would have been possible without hearing those words, “You have breast cancer.” That day changed my life for the better and I have replenished my soul from within since that day.

This Share Your Story submission was written and sent in by Patti McGee, a 20-year breast cancer survivor.

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