Patricia Bynes has the kind of warm, heartfelt laugh that can brighten a person’s day. It comes in handy in her job as a social worker at Georgia Regional Hospital. It also helped her get through a difficult battle with cancer.
Bynes’ journey with cancer began on May 20, 2003, when she was 53 years old. She had her annual mammogram and returned home. By the time she reached her house, there was a message on her answering machine asking her to return to the clinic. Bynes was surprised.
“Physically, there were no bumps, no lumps, no nothing,” said Bynes. However, because she has a family history of cancer on her father’s side, Bynes had undergone a baseline mammogram at the age of 35. When comparing the new mammogram to the baseline, Bynes’ physician found some slight changes in the right breast.
Bynes was referred to Paula DeNitto, M.D., a surgeon and co-founder of Memorial Health University Physicians – Center for Breast Care, the only practice in Savannah devoted exclusively to breast health. A biopsy confirmed that Bynes had breast cancer.
Dr. DeNitto performed two surgeries to remove the cancerous cells and a dozen lymph nodes. Then, Bynes began five months of chemotherapy followed by six-and-a-half weeks of radiation therapy. Bynes’ chemotherapy doctor was Harvey Lebos, M.D., at Summit Cancer Care. She received her radiation therapy at the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute (ACI) at Memorial University Medical Center.
Throughout her treatment, Bynes made every effort to keep her family at ease, particularly her 20-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter.
“I planned my days so that I would receive treatment early in the morning. That would give me time to get through it, rest, it and be ‘up’ again when my daughter came home from school. I did not want my kids to see me lying in bed, looking sick,” said Bynes.
She says three things helped her get through that difficult year:
It also helped that Bynes maintained a positive attitude throughout her treatment. Even on the most difficult days, she never doubted that she would survive.
“We’ve come a long way with breast cancer research and treatment. I got through it by saying, ‘this does not have me, I can get beyond this,’” said Bynes.
Today, Bynes feels great. She works full time and volunteers to help newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. In addition, Bynes is participating in a clinical trial through the ACI to determine the effectiveness of the drug Letrozole in preventing a cancer recurrence in post-menopausal women with hormone receptor positive breast cancer. She knows that clinical trial outcomes will impact the way we treat breast cancer in the future, and could impact her daughter’s health.
Although Patricia Bynes loves to laugh and can find the humor in almost any subject, there is one piece of advice that she takes very seriously:
“I tell every woman I know to get regular mammograms. They caught my cancer early because of a mammogram. If I had waited another year, I might not have had such a good outcome.”
The American Cancer Society recommends all women begin having annual mammograms at age 40. Women with a family history of breast cancer should begin having mammograms at an earlier age. Talk to your physician about the best screening schedule for you.