Patricia Wazontek kept squinting at the image of her mammogram.
Still, no matter how hard the Westmont resident stared, she could not clearly make out a mark that medical professionals were telling her was a tumor.
“To me, it looked like a little squiggle,” said Wazontek, 60.
But it indeed was breast cancer.
She had not felt any symptoms. Wazontek had been getting annual mammograms since her sister contracted the disease years earlier. She credits the regular screenings with helping her to catch the cancer in an early stage last year, which made it much easier to treat than if the growth had not been noticed until it reached a more advanced level.
“Mammograms save lives,” Wazontek said. “They really do.”
Concern about the unknown prompted her to get annual checkups at Conemaugh Health System’s breast cancer treatment center on Franklin Street in Johnstown.
“I was always more afraid to not go than to go,” she explained.
Given her family history with breast cancer, she said the possibility of contracting the disease was “always in the back of my mind.”
Wazontek’s small lesion was first noticed in October.
The diagnosis was confirmed toward the end of December.
Not expecting to be told she had breast cancer, Wazontek said her mind “raced to a million different places.”
However, her response was immediate and full of resolve, as she asked, “OK, what do we do now?” upon hearing the sobering news.
Following a lumpectomy, Wazontek received 33 radiation treatments spread over several months.
“There’s nothing to them,” she said. “Those people are angels. They are so kind to you. You’re in for four or five minutes and then you’re out of there.”
Her case was handled by Dr. Gerard A. Garguilo, who Wazontek described as “simply wonderful.”
Wazontek received word in August that she was cancer-free.
“I’m very, very lucky,” she said.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.