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Breast Cancer Awareness Month feature: Gaines is living life to its fullest
Patricia Gaines
From left, Lady Antoinette Clarke, Patricia Gaines, and Rev. Dr. Bernard Clarke at St. Philip Monumental AME Church. Photo provided

Richmond Hill resident Patricia Gaines is living life to its fullest. The St. Philip Monumental AME Church member is very active in several ministries, including the adult Sunday school class that she teaches, but it doesn’t stop there.

Gaines also works part time, enjoys cooking up new recipes for her daughter, grandkids, and herself to enjoy, and has participated in two Susan G. Komen races to show support.

It might be hard to believe that after retiring as a medical secretary in 2016 Gaines, then 64, was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma- grade 3 triple-negative of the right breast.

According to the American Cancer Society, triple-negative breast cancer accounts for about 10-15% of all breast cancers. It differs from other types of invasive breast cancer in that they grow and spread faster, has limited treatment options, and a worse prognosis.

“I had no emotions when I was told that I had breast cancer. I didn’t react. I just left it in the Lord’s hands that he would get me through it and sustain me,” Gaines said.

After going through the process of having a mammogram, biopsy and MRI, the diagnosis was confirmed.

“When I went for my MRI, I didn’t share with my family until I got the plan of action from my doctor because I didn’t want them to worry and put stress on me. I did share the news with the neurosurgeon I worked for,” said Gaines.

Part of the plan of action included getting a lumpectomy, which is a surgical procedure to remove cancer from the breast. After the procedure, Gaines was referred to an oncologist and had chemotherapy every two weeks for two months.

“The first day I was fine and afterward, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. When I went for my second infusion, that’s when it hit me. I had nausea and couldn’t keep anything down. It got worse and I lost 10 pounds in a week and I had to be given IV fluids for dehydration,” she said. .

Another side effect Gaines experienced from chemotherapy was hair loss.

“I had shoulder-length hair but weeks after the second infusion, pieces of hair would come out.

I decided to get my husband’s razor and shave my head,” she said. “I was kind of cute with my bald head. I came to the conclusion that my hair didn’t define who I was as a person and I found beauty in my bald head.”

Thirty days after her chemotherapy treatments ended, Gaines began radiation therapy five days a week for two months. Radiation therapy is treatment with high-energy rays, or particles that eradicates cancer cells.

“Radiation was a piece of cake. I didn’t burn or anything. I have no complaints regarding radiation.” said Gaines.

Cancer-free today, Gaines said that her daughter, family, friends, and church family became her support system during her breast cancer journey.

Lauren McGrath, senior development manager of the American Cancer Society, Inc. in the Southeast Region said, “Finding out that you have breast cancer can make you feel overwhelmed, vulnerable, and alone. Suddenly having to learn about complex medical treatments and trying to choose the best one can also be stressful during this time.”

There are numerous ways of helping people cope with their breast cancer experience and programs such as the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery are available to help with support.

“Our program, Reach to Recovery, offers a way for those with breast cancer to find support. Our volunteers give patients an opportunity to express feelings, talk about concerns, and ask questions of someone who has been there. Most importantly, Reach to Recovery volunteers offer understanding, support, and hope because they themselves have survived breast cancer,” said McGrath.

Although Gaines has survived breast cancer, she continues to take breast health seriously.

“I still have mammograms yearly. I just had one in August and it was negative. I followed up with my oncologist in September. I reached a five-year mark in that if the breast cancer would come back, it more than likely would have been within those five years.” said Gaines.

She continued, “My mammogram in August 2018 showed new calcifications in the right breast path. I had a stereotactic biopsy that showed fat necrosis that was benign.”

Gaines encourages family members and friends of those who are facing breast cancer to be positive, supportive and be there for them, especially on days after treatment.

To women who are facing breast cancer, Gaines says, “Ask lots of questions, get a support system, develop a relationship with your medical team and pray. That’s what got me through it.”

For more information about the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program, visit

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