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Survivor fights for all touched by cancer
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Long-time Conyers resident Pat Singleton is the survivorship chairperson of the local Relay for Life committee. She is also the namesake for the Relay for Life of Rockdale County team, "Singleton & Friends." - photo by Alena Cowley

Pat Singleton is a 12-year breast cancer survivor. Singleton said she’s found that a personal experience with cancer is often required in order to get people active in breast cancer awareness and fundraising.

"I just shake my head and think, ‘you’re going to face this,’" Singleton said of those who choose not to donate. "Everyone, before they die, is probably going to experience a close encounter with cancer in one way or another. And that’s why I fight."

It was a May 2001 visit to Singleton’s primary care doctor that prompted her to get a mammogram after skipping the exam one year. The next month is when doctors told her they found a small lump.

"Any smaller and it couldn’t have be found," Singleton said.

The lump was the smallest size that doctors could safely operate on.

"I took it in stride to begin with, but then I was concerned," Pat said.

Scared and worried is how Pat described her feelings during surgery. She explained how surgeons had to insert a wire during the operation in order to find the lump.

The cancer did not spread to the lymph nodes, so Pat did not need chemotherapy. But just five weeks after her surgery, she started on what was to be a total of 33 radiation treatments.

And there were complications.

"I burned badly and my burn got an infection," Singleton said of the radiation, mentioning she still has problems with numbing in her arm. "I don’t know that you ever recover," Singleton said.

The survivor cited "a very strong faith in God," and "a lot of people’s support and prayers," as helping her get through the emotional aftermath of surgery and treatment.

"That’s how you get through. You try not to get depressed. You try to keep going," Singleton said.

And Singleton remembers those who "had it worse," than her.

Right after her treatment, Singleton said she joined a breast cancer support group. She heard about the vomiting and side effects other ladies were going through because of their chemotherapy.

"And I felt guilty for ever complaining and yet, I felt very, very blessed," Singleton said, mentioning a cousin going through her third round of chemotherapy.

Pat’s aunt died last year from pancreatic cancer and her father-in-law died from prostate cancer.

"You will change your mind frame about cancer when you watch a very close loved one pass away from it," Singleton said.

That mind frame moves her to continue building and maintaining close relationships with other survivors.

Singleton’s daughter, Julie Singleton, is a nurse at Rockdale Medical Center. Julie described her mother as very caring and friendly to familiar faces and strangers, alike.

"She’s always been very encouraging," Julie said of her mother. "She’s been through her fight, but didn’t let it defeat her."

The mother of six called Julie "one of my best caregivers."

"We’re big Relay-ers now," Pat said of their participation in Relay for Life. "We’re really compassionate about cancer."

The 63-year-old woman explained that she is "also 12 years old."

"After you’ve had cancer, you’ll be glad to tell everyone how old you are," Pat said.

Pat said she appreciated that American Cancer Society puts 25 percent of its donations into research.

"If research is not done, cancer is still going to be here," Pat said, adding that she wants a world without cancer for her grandchildren.

The Conyers resident said she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren as well as baking.

Pat and her husband, Jimmy, a Vietnam veteran, will celebrate their 42nd anniversary at the end of this month.