How did you first find out you had cancer?
It’s really very strange. I call it a God wink. I always checked my right breast almost unconsciously for years. I would feel right above my nipple with my thumb. I was already scheduled for an ultrasound because I had very dense breasts. And as all women should do, with dense breasts, they need to get more than just a mammogram.
How did you react when you heard the news?
On April 10, 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was sitting with my friend Lydia at a bookstore eating lunch when the call came in. I saw my mom’s life (and death) in front of me. It was like a slow motion movie in my mind. My mom, Daisy, died of breast cancer 20 years prior at the age of 59. Grief, sadness, and fear took over my entire body.
A few hours later, when I could think straight, somehow I knew that this would be God’s way of helping me grow and reach my fullest potential as a human being. So I called five of my best friends to my house. I popped open two bottles of champagne and I said, “I have cancer. And we’re going to celebrate this beautiful healing journey. By the way, we’re going to videotape the entire thing, too.” They were shocked to say the least, but that’s what happened.
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I had a double mastectomy and one year of chemotherapy, which I call “sacred juice.” It’s healing, so it’s sacred to me. I was also on Abraxane, Carboplatin, and Herceptin which I called was Her2Neu.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
That it really wasn’t so tough. Sure, I didn’t feel so great a lot of the time. But it’s not that picture of chemo that we all envision. It’s like having a bad flu. Plus, I just believe that our attitude can make it worse. I took the chemo in like something sacred. I welcomed it into my body to do what I needed it to do. I think that might have made a difference. What also surprised me was how my family and friends “showed up.” Being single, having no kids and no siblings, I always wondered if someone would be there for me in a time of need. I don’t wonder that anymore. They showed up like the angels that they are. I counted on them and I learned to receive. They carried me on their wings to healing.
What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Cancer does not equal death! Get those thoughts out of your head. You have a choice. Choose joy. Choose peace. Choose happy healing. Don’t give yourself the option to think negative thoughts. Flip the switch in your head and use your journey to grow, to better your life, to examine your priorities. To reconnect with yourself and those you love. Stay away from toxic people and situations. Surround yourself with only positive and happy people and places. Don’t watch the news—watch comedies instead. Slow down; the world will keep spinning. Focus on gratitude. And have faith that it’s all happening exactly as it’s supposed to.
How long have you been cancer free?
Three years ago I finished my one-year of treatment. I am happy, healthy, cancer-free and so very grateful.
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I learned many lessons. One is that being of service and helping others at a time like that truly helped me heal better. I videotaped my entire breast cancer journey with the hope of using the footage to help others who are diagnosed with this disease. I started to video four hours after hearing the words, “You have cancer.” At that moment I thought, I want to share my story with others. No matter what the outcome, I will deal with this in a positive and empowered way. I will share lessons that I learn, as I am learning them. And I will share patient-to-patient tips as I discover things that are making the journey easier for me, with the hope, that it will help others who will walk the same path. And so I began to journal and to videotape everything for more than one year. I think that helping others helped me. The video got turned into a Discovery documentary, which I co-produced. And the journal is now my book The Cancer Dancer: Healing One Step at a Time where I offer more than 400 patient-to-patient and caregiver tips and advice for anyone going through this.
I believe that breast cancer came into my life to teach me things I needed to learn. It has gone from being a dreaded enemy to being a catalyst for my own growth, a conduit through which to pass from one level of awareness to another. As its temporary host, I am learning the lessons and welcoming the wisdom it offered.
I now slow down more often. I make time for me and the things I love to do. More than anything, I am so very grateful to God, for my friends, family, doctors and those who create and provide the healing medicines. If I could rewind this tape and rewrite this story, I can honestly say, I would not. I now live every day—every moment, every breath—in gratitude. At least that’s what I try to do every day.
If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
If breast cancer comes into your life, learn the lessons that it has to offer. One of the greatest lessons for me was to learn to receive. Mothers tend to take care of everyone else while keeping themselves and their own needs at the bottom of their to-do list. We think that the world will stop spinning if things aren’t done our way. It won’t. Release control. Focus on your healing. And let others take care of you now.
It’s okay to be perfectly imperfect.
Patricia San Pedro made a name for herself in the broadcasting industry. While at WTVJ NBC in Miami she earned three Emmy Awards. She later expanded her wings internationally as the Corporate Communications Manager and key spokesperson for American Airlines, in Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America. Patricia then moved to The Miami Herald and Nuevo Herald as VP of Event Marketing and Community Affairs. In 2001, Patricia opened San Pedro Productions, a public relations, TV production, and marketing company.
In 2008 Patricia’s life came to a screeching halt when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. From the moment of diagnosis, she saw her cancer as something brought to her life for a reason. She videotaped and documented her entire healing journey, to help others. Her new book, The Cancer Dancer: Healing One Step at a Time, provides more than 400 patient-to-patient and caregiver tips to help someone going through breast cancer. Her health and wellness website, Positively Pat, is a home for anyone wanting to live a healthier, happier life.
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