Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Shelley’s Journey

270 Days. That’s how long it took Shelley Pagani to feel whole again after her December 2020 breast cancer diagnosis – to fully appreciate her journey to survivorship. 

After I processed that I had cancer, I emotionally got to a place where I knew what had to be done to beat this disease. So everything in-between spoke to how determined I was to have a successful outcome. As my care team discussed the plan with me, I prepared myself to get through the process – chemo, radiation, surgeries – whatever it took to make sure I reached the end result, which was survivorship.

Devastating News

I thought of myself as someone who was in very good health most of my life, enjoying life with my husband, and, until that point, loved to have fun and just felt wonderful and as carefree as I could be. I worked hard in a job that I love, have a special bond with my dog that I cherish, have wonderful friends, and have never been closer with my mother, which has been so special to me.

Breast cancer never crossed my mind.

In December, I went in for my annual mammogram. One week following, I found myself back at Avita for an ultrasound – they saw something suspicious. Dr. Sander soon followed up with a biopsy – it was positive and I was in complete disbelief.

I really didn’t believe it at first. I never even told my husband I was going in for my annual mammogram because I really thought nothing about it, as it was just so routine. I had been totally fine. So after hearing those words – breast cancer, I was really scared, asking myself questions like “how long has this been inside of me” and “what do I do next?” It totally changed my perspective.

My biggest fear was the unknown.

My care team was amazing and welcoming. I didn’t know what to expect from Avita, however, I put my trust in Dr. Sander, Dr. Soni, and Melody Joice. They were fantastic. I was able to focus the emotional part of my journey – daily life, husband, and work because I was so confident that Avita had a plan to take care of my cancer. I just had to be strong.

My diagnosis was devastating, but I knew the instant I first met the team at Avita that I was in excellent hands.

Surgery, Treatment and Healing

The entire process moved forward in just a few days. Dr. Sander extracted my tumor and lymph nodes. The care team was so reassuring and kept telling me everything was going to be okay. Melody Joice and Dr. Soni arranged for my radiation treatments and followed my progress every step of the way. There was never a time that someone from Avita couldn’t help me.

Best care and communication, they protected my privacy, I felt prioritized.

My husband and dog were so important to my healing and therapy. I leaned on my husband; he was so terrific. We spoke everyday about my progress and how I was feeling. I felt his strength when he held my hand as we walked as much as possible. Together, we made it a priority to eat healthy and exercise. My dog, Hazel Mae, was so important to my mental health as she was always waiting for me to come home from work and treatments, loving on me, and just helping me to laugh and smile everyday. 

I was in such good hands at Avita, so I knew I had to focus on taking care of my body and my mind. With the help of Dr. Soni and Melody Joice, I turned my focus on eating healthy, exercising, and keeping a positive outlook especially with my husband and family.

Shelley’s World Today

I have embraced all of the changes to my body.

After getting over the initial shock of my diagnosis, I quickly started to evaluate how I was spending my time and energy. I just wanted to be strong for my husband and family, and get through the process as quickly as possible so I could get on with my life, but cancer taught me lessons more than any other life experience could.

I learned how to have a deeper connection with my mind and body, and it’s taught me how to actually be proud of myself for knowing and realizing how much strength I had to give – both physically and mentally. I now have a new perspective in life that some may not find in their lifetime – every moment, as good or bad as it is, is precious because it’s about living and sharing my life with family and friends. I have so much to offer.

Every time I would say that I have too much to live for, my husband would say well get busy living.

As a survivor, my advice to everyone diagnosed with cancer is to remember you are not in this alone. Do what you need to do to educate yourself and know that you can control your attitude and determination. Accept help from your family and friends, and listen to what your body is telling you. Most importantly, have confidence and trust in your care team. For me, my wonderful caregivers at Avita helped me understand that getting to survivorship is a process – baby steps. Take the time you need to let it all sink in, and don’t go crazy trying to figure it all out at once.

From the time of my diagnosis, through surgery, then treatments, the Avita Cancer Team was fantastic and helped me feel confident and in control of my care. They developed a care plan to help me and my husband through this journey. My oncologist, nurse navigator, and physicians were informative, compassionate, and guided me every step of the way. I hope my positive outcome can inspire others to keep up with their breast health and know there is a great team at Avita to educate, treat, and support you and your family.

Thank you so much!
– Shelley Pagani

In honor of Shelley and all breast cancer patients…

Or send your check payable to the Avita Health Foundation  to:

Avita Health Foundation
Attention:  Breast Cancer Awareness Month
629 N. Sandusky Ave
Bucyrus, Ohio 44820

To schedule a mammogram in either Galion or Bucyrus call:

Galion Hospital: 419-468-8227
Bucyrus Hospital: 419-462-3310

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Soni call: 419-462-3470 or request an appointment online.

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