It started out as an ordinary day for Gay Wilson. She was hard at work as the Worker’s Compensation Coordinator at Piedmont Medical Center when she received an invitation to sign up for a screening to test a new digital MRI machine being installed at Piedmont.
No stranger to the importance of health screenings, the Registered Nurse signed up for the second to last available spot. Gay started getting mammograms when she was 25 years old, due to a family history of breast cancer. Each time she went, the tests came back negative, so she didn’t hesitate to consider being a “guinea pig” for the new machine. It’s what the test revealed that took her by surprise.
The MRI showed that a tumor had developed and Gay was experiencing stage 3 breast cancer. It was a rare type of tumor that didn’t show up on her routine mammograms. She credits the wonderful physicians here at Piedmont Medical Center with recognizing the problem and starting the process of saving her life.
“A person sometimes faces difficult decisions in life, but what matters is how well they deal with the situation,” said Gay.
“Your have a choice to do something about your situation or to give up. My choice is always to face my issue and try to overcome it.”
With no time to hesitate, Gay decided to have her surgery done as soon as possible. In under a week, she was able to have the tumor removed and start chemotherapy at Carolina Blood and Cancer Care here in Rock Hill with Dr. Kashyap Patel.
For Gay, life after surgery came with many questions and even more support. She, along with her sister, best friend, and husband, went to meet with Dr. Patel. He carefully explained the treatment plan and talked to Gay about what to expect throughout her treatment process.
Chemotherapy became a part of Gay’s life for the next 15 months. “My desire to survive was what kept me motivated to push through the treatment,” Gay explained. She decided to work while doing chemo and radiation. Gay recalls going to chemotherapy on Fridays so she would be sick during the weekend and able to be back at work on Monday. “It was actually therapeutic for me to work because the radiation treatment made me really tired. Working helped me press through that tiredness,” said Gay.
A cancer survivor for 8 years now, Gay has done a lot of self-reflection. She can now connect with other cancer survivors and patients in a deeper way. She wanted to share that after a battle with cancer, survivors may not feel the same level of health as before. “We seem to tire easier and may have neuropathy that causes some constant discomfort as we find a ‘new normal’ for ourselves. These things can be treated so that life is more enjoyable, and people in my position should seek treatment and not just give up.”
Gay is an active participant of the post-cancer yoga class offered at Piedmont. She says it is great for helping with flexibility, balance, and comfort. It’s free for people still in treatment and up to a year after treatment. Guests and people who have been out of treatment for over a year can participate in the yoga class for a small fee.
“Most survivors are probably a little afraid of yoga because it brings to mind pictures of people contorting themselves into unnatural positions,” says Gay. “They need to know that this is gentle stretching, strengthening, and soothing with breathing exercises. It was recommended by my oncologist and it’s a good place to meet other survivors
to support each other.”
As a survivor, Gay has a lot of advice about breast cancer for everyone since anyone can be impacted by the disease. For those with family history of breast cancer, she recommends to start getting mammograms early. She said, “it is important to face your fear of breast cancer and get tested.” For those currently battling cancer, Gay’s advice is to talk to people with the same experiences and share ideas on how to cope with the treatment. “Open up to family members about your condition because they worry about your health as much as you do. Find cancer support groups where you can share your stories during difficult times.”
Here at Piedmont Medical Center, we have a Beyond Breast Cancer support group, which meets twice each month at the Women’s Diagnostic Center. Other support programs include Knit Chicks, Look Good Feel Better, Survivor’s Yoga and the New Attitude Room.
Every Wednesday Evening 5:45-6:45pm
Piedmont Medical Center CV-Tele Conference Room
(2nd floor, Heart & Vascular Center)
Free for people still in treatment and up to a year after treatment. Guests and people who have been out of treatment for over a year can participate in the yoga class for a small fee.
*Please bring your own yoga mat.
Piedmont Medical Center was the first hospital in the region to offer 3D mammograms.
Digital 3D mammography, also known as breast tomosynthesis, provides physicians with a clearer image of deep breast tissue and decreases the need for further examinations. This advanced technology can help distinguish superimposed tissue from real abnormalities, leading to fewer call backs and less anxiety for women. Tomosynthesis may also find abnormalities at earlier stages, when breast cancer is most treatable.