The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 13, 2012

Life-saving routine: Daily self-exam helped woman catch aggressive cancer early

— Patti Smith of the Wilmore area is a firm believer in daily self-examinations between yearly mammograms.

She thinks the routine she performs each day during her shower may have saved her life.

“A mammogram is once a year,” she said. “Self-examination you can do every day.”

Smith, 63, found the peanut-sized lump in November.

“One day it was not there, the next day it was.”

Smith admits she was scared, but made an appointment with her primary-care physician, who sent her to Dr. Patti Stefanick.

A biopsy revealed cancer, and Smith was sent to see Dr. Rashid Awan, an oncologist with UPMC’s John P. Murtha Regional Cancer Center.

Smith said she was told her cancer was a very aggressive type that had spread to her lymph nodes.

So in February, she started chemotherapy.

The six months of treatments caused her hair to fall out and made her feel tired much of the time. She also had sores in her mouth and couldn’t taste her food.

“But overall, I did pretty good,” she said.

“(The medical people) couldn’t get over how well I did,” she said. “They tell me I had the best attitude.

“I told them that I am not going to let it get me down.”

In August, she had a mastectomy and had seven lymph nodes removed – five of which were cancerous. She had reconstruction surgery done at the same time.

Last week, she learned the results from positron emission tomography/computed tomography scans, which showed the cancer had not spread.

“I’m on cloud nine right now,” she said the day she learned the results.

Smith has started on a daily regimen of radiation that will last for several weeks.

She will need to be vigilant as “there is a possibility that the cancer could come back because of the type of cancer it is,” she said.

Smith said she expects to have exams every three months “probably for the rest of my life.”

But she is OK with that.

“I know I have a good (medical) team behind me that’s going to get me through it,” she said.

Although she credits her “good team of doctors for giving me back my life,” Smith also gives thanks to God.  

“Everyone’s prayers made the difference,” she said. “I had prayers from people I didn’t even know.”

It was those prayers and the support of so many – including her three children, eight grandchildren and husband, Ken, that kept her going.

“I had so much support from everyone, and they would not let me get down,” she said.

Smith, who spent years working at local banks and for United Cerebral Palsy, now focuses on her woodcrafting.

She used to sell her outdoor ornamental items at craft shows, but now enjoys doing workshops to teach others how to make their own crafts.

“My goal in life is to put smiles on people’s faces,” she said. “And when they do a project they have the biggest smile you have ever seen.”

Her advice to other women going through breast cancer is to “just keep busy and concentrate on getting better.”

She also has advice for women who have not been touched with breast cancer.

“Make sure you do your self-examinations,” she said. “I never thought I was going to wake up that morning and have my shower and find a lump.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Flower2 Flowers' color doesn't have to fade

    Those pots of bright yellow daffodils, Easter lilies and hyacinths gracing the home this weekend do not have to end up in the trash bin when the blooms start to fade.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Refinancing could lower Richland School District's debt by $2.2M

    When Richland School District borrowed funds for its high school project a decade ago, board members circled “2014” on their calendars as a likely first option to refinance the debt.

    April 20, 2014

  • Pipeline to carry shale byproducts

    An 8-inch transmission line crossing Pennsylvania, including four municipalities in Cambria County, is being repurposed to carry some of the by-products from Marcellus and Utica shale production.

    April 20, 2014

  • Judge Creany, Timothy Vets courts gain support

    Signs of success are mostly anecdotal in Pennsylvania’s special courts for veterans, but judicial officials and lawmakers are so convinced of the program, they’re lobbying to expand it.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • pow21 Person of the Week: ‘I wanted to help’: Teen uses birthday to show love for children, animals

    Anastasia Machik’s love for children and animals inspired her to forgo her birthday gifts for the sake of the two.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Students taking steps to call attention to child abuse

    An upcoming community walk will help raise awareness of child abuse.

    April 20, 2014

  • In brief: PennDOT reports weekly work schedule

    April 20, 2014

  • District Deaths April 21, 2014

    April 20, 2014

  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014


Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads