Joyce’s story: An avid traveler and a breast cancer survivor
Joyce grew up in the ‘50s in the small town of Richmond, Indiana where her father ran a corner grocery store. She was blessed with a wonderful family life, the second oldest of five siblings. From a very young age, she exuded independence. After graduating high school, Joyce attended Marian University Indianapolis, graduating with a BA in mathematics. Although retired for 13 years now, she is emphatic about loving her career working as a computer tech in the healthcare industry.
When you hear the happy-toned voice explaining how lucky she is to be alive and have a wonderful husband and life—even with a cancer diagnosis—it’s an inspiration for others. Joyce is steadfast about her life and emphasized that even with cancer she wants to truly live her life. Although, COVID-19 has set her back a bit in the activities and fun that she would normally be embarking on, she knows this pandemic won’t last forever and will get back out in the world as soon as it’s safe for her to do so.
Joyce is passionate about traveling, she has traveled to every U.S. state and internationally she has toured every continent. Her favorite places were Africa on safari and the country side of France, her husband Bill’s favorite destination was London. Ironically, it was while traveling in 2018 to New Orleans where Joyce’s life was forever changed.
Being the caring wife she didn’t want Bill to carry the luggage since he was recently released from the hospital. As Joyce tried to pick up the suitcases she experienced excruciating pain in her lower back. After returning from the trip she went to see her primary care physician and he ran several tests, only to receive bad news that she had an abnormality in her spine.
Joyce was in total bewilderment when she got the results of her CT scan showing she had a large tumor in her left breast. “I was totally shocked. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that I would have breast cancer,” said Joyce.
Yet at age 74, Hematology Oncology of Indiana Medical Oncologist Jenelle Miller, MD diagnosed her with Carcinoma of the left breast—invasive ductal carcinoma, estrogen receptor positive and HER-2 positive.
Shortly after being diagnosed, Joyce endured an aggressive treatment plan in the hopes of achieving long-term survival. “Joyce was 100% committed to her treatment plan even while enduring difficulties of chemotherapy side effects,” said Dr. Miller.
A practicing oncologist for 16 years now, Dr. Miller is a firm believer in educating patients on the diagnosis and treatment plan and continual updating during the process. Dr. Miller said, “I encourage patients to ask questions. The more patients understand the reasons why I decided on their treatment plan, the better they are able to take care of themselves.”
Joyce is following Dr. Miller’s guidance and is continuing to beat breast cancer. “I lived a wonderful life and a long life, I am really not afraid to die,” said Joyce. “But I think about my husband who is younger than me and I want to do everything to stay alive for him.”
Joyce gets her toughness and willingness to fight from her mother, who passed away at the age of 102. She explained that her mother was a fighter until the end, enduring knee and hip replacement and pneumonia.
It’s difficult to imagine that someone with cancer considers themself lucky, but that’s exactly how Joyce explains it. “I feel blessed to have a wonderful husband and my family and friends are very supportive with loving and encouraging letters, cards, text messages and prayers—I think the most important thing to me is my catholic faith,” says Joyce.
Because of the significant risk of reoccurrence Joyce continues to be monitored. For almost two years her scans have showed no evidence of recurrence and she continues to be in remission. She credits Dr. Miller and her primary care physician for saving her life.
“I really love Dr. Miller. She is always so encouraging and positive that both Bill and I always leave her office feeling better than when we arrived,” said Joyce. “Because it’s a community practice and not a hospital, it’s a lot more personal. The providers and staff really get to know you.”
Joyce remains optimistic about the future as her and Bill just celebrated their 36 year wedding anniversary and are looking forward to many more.