Nacogdoches woman says chemotherapy was a blessing

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A Nacogdoches woman has survived two different life threatening diseases including breast cancer. This year, she's stronger than ever after the death of her grandchild and almost losing her only daughter this summer. Patty Heflin said after being diagnosed with breast cancer chemotherapy was a blessing for her.

In 2000, Heflin was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus. Just six short years later doctors detected another disease.

"I went to bed and I ran my hand over my chest, and I felt the lump. I was like everybody else in denial," Heflin said.

The then 50-year-old woman always had annual mammograms.

"I just had one in August, so he had something to compare it to. There was nothing there at all in August," Heflin said.

But in June of 2006 she discovered a large mass.

"First thing he said was its cancer and I need to get it out of there. I went to pieces," Heflin said.

She was scheduled for lumpectomy surgery immediately.

"They wanted to do radiation but because I have lupus also they were afraid," Heflin said. "I went back to MD Anderson and it was decided that because my cancer was in the center of my chest my chest wall wouldn't heal correctly because of the lupus. So, they decided to go ahead and do the mastectomy."

After her double mastectomy surgery Heflin received six months of chemotherapy treatment. She said chemo is the best thing that could've happened to her then.

"It was almost a blessing because the chemo that I went through for the breast cancer put the lupus in remission," Heflin said.

It seemed the best was yet to come until this summer's tragedy. Heflin's daughter Amanda lost her child during her 27th week of pregnancy and hours later Heflin thought she would lose her daughter, too.

"No one knew what was wrong with her and finally a doctor from Cincinnati happened to come and he diagnosed her with salmonella," Heflin said.

Though this grandmother lost her grandchild she said she's blessed to still enjoy moments like this with her only daughter.

She's hoping her strength will motivate others during their hardships.

"I'm reaching out to people with a pillow ministry that I started for women that have breast cancer," Heflin said.

The pillows provide comfort for women who have had a mastectomy. Heflin also includes a letter of encouragement.

"There are other people out there that have done the same thing and they get through it," Heflin said. "I just believe that God has a purpose and he has a purpose for all of us, and I think that my strength has gotten me through this."

Heflin has been a Nacogdoches Memorial employee for the past 37 years and plans to continue her pillow ministry encouraging other women at the hospital as they become breast cancer survivors.

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