A journey of one year to becoming cancer free

  • Patsy Lewis Gentry rang the bell at Emory Winship Cancer Institute to signify the completion of her cancer treatment. (Submitted photo)
    Patsy Lewis Gentry rang the bell at Emory Winship Cancer Institute to signify the completion of her cancer treatment. (Submitted photo)

Patsy Lewis Gentry of Sautee Nacoochee says it seems like only yesterday that she was diagnosed with six cancerous lesions in her right breast.

While at a medical appointment during the summer of 2019, Dr. Elizabeth Tong of Emory Healthcare convinced her to have a mammogram.

“I really felt I had no need to have one, since I had no symptoms,” Gentry says.

It was late September as she sat in the waiting area while a radiologist read her mammogram. What she expected to be a matter of a few moments lingered into more than 30 minutes.

“Breast cancer was the least thing on my mind,” Gentry says. “But, here I sat, until a nurse came and escorted me into another mammogram treatment area. This happened twice with two different nurses and each escorted me back to the waiting area after each procedure.

“I thought, ‘This doesn’t look good.’”

A physician soon told her and her husband that he found six suspicious lesions in Gentry’s right breast. The head nurse across the hall would explain her next steps.

“Life changed completely for me at that moment in time,” Gentry says. “About 90 degrees and never to be the same again.”

But she felt prepared to take on the challenge.

“As a woman of great faith, I just knew God had covered me. I was not afraid. I knew I would be all right. I just knew.”

After consultations, the next steps included a biopsy and more mammograms, a lumpectomy to remove the cancer and dealing with the after-effects of radiation treatment after a five-day-a-week program throughout October. It would become a year-long journey toward recovery.

Several weeks ago, however, Gentry went in for a yearly breast check up and was told there were no signs of cancer in either breast.

“I am overwhelmed with praise to my God, my faith, my husband Ray, Dr. Elizabeth Tong at Emory for pushing me to have a mammogram, the entire team of professionals at Winship Cancer Institute and surgeon Dr. Cletus Arcerio, a praying church – Pastor Jim Holmes – and church family and family and friends.”

Despite the health threat, Gentry says the experience has turned out to be a blessing.

“Now, my perspective has changed. Instead of everything having to be perfect, I find myself more introspective and enjoy God’s abundant bounty all around me. Life is simple now. In this struggle of change, God has graced me with a very special gift – inner peace.”

Like many women, Gentry said she had no signs of cancer, rarely checked her breast and hated to face the “iron press,” as she calls the mammogram machine. She encourages other women to schedule a mammogram and credits savvy and caring medical professionals with making sure her cancer didn’t go unnoticed.

“You might be a ticking time bomb for cancer, and it can be cured if caught early like mine. It is worth the press from the ‘Iron Bandit,’ believe me,” she says. “God has given me a second chance with my 90-degree turn in my life. I have a simple life now, with so much more enjoyment, such peace and everything I do is more like a turtle not a frantic roadrunner.”