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Snellville Woman Recalls Breast Cancer Diagnosis for Herself and Mother

Patti Tyson and her mother were diagnosed six days apart.

In September of 2008, Patti Tyson went in for what she thought was a routine mammogram.

She didn’t know it, but her mother, Maryanne Tyson, had just gone in a couple of days before because of an irregular lump. On Oct. 3, Maryanne received her diagnosis: it was breast cancer.

On Oct. 9, Patti received hers. She was 43.

Patti found out that she carried the gene for breast cancer, BRCA1, something she inherited from her father’s side of the family. Her paternal grandmother passed away from the disease back in 1980.

Fortunately for Patti, her cancer was caught very early. After the initial biopsy, which came back positive, she had a bilateral mastectomy on Nov. 14, 2008, and a hysterectomy a year after that. Hormones had a role in her cancer, and there was a sixty percent chance of getting cancer again if she kept her ovaries.

She was treated at Northside Hospital, a far drive but she "wouldn't change that decision for the world." Her surgeon was part of the staff at Breast Care Specialists.

Maryanne, who tested negative for the breast cancer gene, fought a more difficult battle. She had to go through chemo every three weeks and multiple other doctor visits during the week.

"The pastor’s wife found out through the church what was going on," said Patti's father, Russell Tyson, "and made a list of people who could take her to all her different appointments."

Russell took her to all her chemo appointments, though. Although she received a clean bill of health in July of 2009, she began to have headaches and slurred speech in mid-August.

The cancer had metastasized.

It spread to her brain, lungs and liver in the “most aggressive case” her doctor had ever seen.

On Maryanne’s 67th birthday, Patti, her brother, father and some of Maryanne’s closest friends gathered together for a party at the hospital in Tennessee where Maryanne was admitted, near Pigeon Forge.

When Patti was halfway home, she received a call from her dad that her mother had passed away. It was just nine days before their 45th wedding anniversary.

“I always tell people it gets a little easier,” said Russell. “But it never goes away.”

Although Russell had a strong, supportive church family, it was “very, very hard” seeing the effects of such a devastating disease on his lifelong love and only daughter. He and Maryanne owned a coffee shop in Pigeon Forge; buying the shop was something they did on a whim. When she began to go in for treatments, he continued running the shop himself.

According to BreastCancer.org, one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Nearly 40,000 women died from the disease in 2011.

Now, Patti worries about her son, who is in a serious relationship. He has not yet been tested for the breast cancer gene, but he could potentially pass it on to his future children.

Last year, she participated in the Susan G. Komen three-day walk, something she has done for the past seven years. Initially, she walked in honor of her grandmother. Now, she represents three generations of women. Although she won’t participate in the walk this year, she is forming a team to participate in the Relay for Life in May. She will also do a two-day walk for an organization called "It's the Journey."

If you or someone you know is a breast cancer survivor and would like to share your story, email the editor at Crystal.Huskey@patch.com.

For further reading:

  • Breast Cancer Awareness in Snellville
  • Part I: Marlene's Breast Cancer Story

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