TUPELO — After Patsy Gregory, leader of small group at The Orchard, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, she continued to wear makeup and walk four miles a day, imagining she was walking out the cancer.
“I was going to be healed,” she said. “I believed it. I had a smile on my face, and I looked for people to help. So many people helped me in my journey. I always say enjoy the journey.”
She found a knot four months after a mammogram, and the next day, after she met with a doctor, she was sent to a surgeon.
Because she ate healthfully, no one expected Gregory’s diagnosis. Breast cancer didn’t run in her family.
Ultimately, she and her family were confused and shocked.
“I could cry right now,” she said, recounting the day she found out she had cancer. “It’s really hard when you don’t feel bad. You don’t feel like anything is wrong, and all of the sudden, it’s there.”
Gregory started her first round of chemo on the day of her youngest daughter’s high school graduation.
She researched options locally for a surgical oncologist to remove the tumor.
“There are no surgical oncologists here,” she said. “I think it’s very important for people to have a second opinion.”
She found a fellowship-trained surgical oncologist in Jackson, after 24 weeks of chemo in Tupelo and Columbus. After her surgery, she was told she was cancer free.
A month later, Gregory traveled to MD Anderson Cancer Research Center in Texas, with her husband Bob, to begin radiation. Her goddaughter and mother-in-law had both been treated for cancer at the center and had been deemed cancer free.
Gregory’s tumor was 6 centimeters, in stage three with lymph nodes involved.
“I thought if the floor would open up, I would crawl through the floor,” she said. “And the doctor said, ‘No you’re not. You’re going to concentrate on the fact that the chemo is going to work.’”
During radiation, she asked the radiation oncologist how she could help with other cancer patients.
He told her, “You’re already giving back because I’m writing a new book on the way we do radiation. And I’m using the way we did yours.”
The radiation was developed to miss the heart, and it was very important for Gregory that the radiation missed her organs.
In February 2008, Gregory completed her radiation, but her journey with cancer didn’t stop there. With a passion to help people, she developed HERStory, her own personal acronym to reach out and lessen the pain of a cancer diagnosis.
“My happier moment through all of this was helping other people. I found it was my release,” she said. “I love to give people hope, empowerment, resources and support.”
Gregory often takes calls from people recently diagnosed with cancer, and she said she can hear the defeat in their voices until she offers them hope.
“I tell them they are a survivor from the moment they are diagnosed and that 90 percent of it is to remain positive,” she said.
Through her battle and defeat of cancer, Gregory said she feels like a stronger person.
“I know I am cancer free, and I’m a miracle. God does have a purpose,” she said, tearing up. “I have been through a very heavy battle. One of the chemos I went through was called the Red Devil because it was so strong.”
Gregory welcomes calls day or night because she said she’s been there.
“We all like to find somebody who’s been through what we’ve been through,” she said. “We all have struggles, and I think telling my story and helping people through their struggles is very helpful.”
Gregory lives with her husband on his farm in Okolona and continues to eat a mainly organic diet with regular exercise.