The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 27, 2012

Bout with breast cancer changes priorities for Portage survivor

DeAnn Hadix-Cardarella
For The Tribune-Democrat

— Too many people live their lives and never stop to appreciate the simple things – a bonus summer day during a non-summer season, a tiny little hand resting in the grip of adult fingers, or the sweet sound of laughter from family and friends.

 Life’s smallest miracles often go unnoticed, until one day, when an eye-awakening moment causes pause and a new appreciation for the simplicities of life.

It was an awakening for Joyce Benton of Portage when she was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer.

“Your priorities change, that’s for sure,” said the 54-year old.

Benton has been the owner of Tropics Tanning and Toning at 112 Munster Road for eight years. Since her diagnosis with cancer, Benton has a greater appreciation for life’s joys and has recently put her business up for sale.

“I want to spend more time with my little granddaughter, Sidney, who just turned 1, and my stepgranddaughter, Alyssa,” she said.

Benton and her husband, Don, babysit Sidney during the day while Alyssa attends school.

To the Bentons, life is about the relationships and simple pleasures.

But also high on her list of gratitude is the big-city care she received close to home.

“I have always heard great things about the Joyce Murtha (Breast Care) Center, and I can tell you, they are all true,” she said. “I loved Windber Medical Center. Everyone is nice.”

She has great faith and appreciation for her team of experts.

“I have to thank Dr. Dianna Craig and her staff, the staff at the Joyce Murtha center, Dr. (Rashid) Awan and Dr. (Michael) Voloshin and staff, and Dr. Kevin Stefanik and staff.

“Their care was amazing. I would not go anywhere else,” she said.

Benton credits her medical care and her routine mammograms with the early discovery of a tumor that could not even be detected during a self-breast examination.

She had a lumpectomy on March 17, 2011, which she dubs her lucky day.

“That is the day, they got it all,” Benton said.

Shortly after, she had four bouts of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation.

“The chemo wasn’t bad at all. I didn’t even get sick,” she said. “I lost my hair, but that didn’t bother me at all.”

Benton said she had an amazing support system among friends and family. The diagnosis definitely made her stronger.

Through it all, Benton maintained her sense of humor and joked about what came next – father-daughter bonding time.

In November of that same year, her 83-year-old father, Walter Zabrosky, also of Portage, was diagnosed with lymphoma.

“I went with him to all his treatments,” she said. “I knew what to do. I went with Dad and stayed there during his treatments. He did get sick though; I didn’t.”

Today, father and daughter share a very special bond and are both doing well.

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