Survivor since May 30, 2007

That was the day my life changed forever.  I had my yearly mammogram that morning, left the hospital intent on going about the rest of my day, and I did, until the phone call that afternoon.
No one ever thinks they or anyone they know is going to get cancer.  You do what the doctors tell you, exercise, eat right, self examine each month, yearly mammogram.  That way, you are safe, right?  Didn’t work that way for me.
You could have blown me over with a feather, me get cancer?  How was I to tell my husband, who had stuck by me through the past 12 years of severe heart disease?  Now this?  Yeah, I felt sorry for him and me, scared and oh so sorry.  My husband and I just held on to each other for dear life, the suppressing darkness of cancer cloaked around us.  Was I going to live?  See my granddaughter graduate, and get married? What of our plans to go to Alaska, and build our dream home?  Had I done all I wanted to do, or was I out of time?  People didn’t survive cancer very often, did they?
The next couple weeks were full of tests, more tests, and then a few more tests.  Then came the day we sat in the surgeon’s office to hear our fate.  I had a very aggressive type of cancer they said, but the good news (there is good news?) was that it was a hormone receptive positive cancer and I was only in stage 2.  The tumor was lodged right on the breast bone, and since I had large, dense breasts, it had gone undetected for years.  A modified radical mastectomy was recommended, and since I had a 40+% chance of it recurring in the right breast sometime down the road, what did I think of having it taken as well?  What did I think?  My husband and I both felt it was best to be aggressive, and not live every day wondering when the other shoe would drop.  So I had both breasts removed along with 14 lymph nodes, as the sentinel node was cancerous.
Sometime after my surgery, when my dear husband was tending to my drains, I got mad.  Good and mad.  I decided than and there that I was NOT going to let cancer define me, I was NOT going to roll over and give up.  We had too much to live for, too much to do.  Alaska may be out this year, but by golly we were going to go in a couple years, right after we finished building our dream home. I got mad, and I stayed mad. As soon as I could heal, I was going to pick up my life and get going again.  I would survive this, we both would.  Yep, it would take some effort and some time, but I was going to kick this and WIN!!
That was 14 months ago.  It wasn’t an easy few months after the surgery, I remember the long nights sitting up in the living room, too afraid to go to sleep, afraid I wouldn’t wake up.  I kept telling myself that I could do this, I had a lot to live for, I was going to survive.  But those night terrors can really get to you.  Even today, you get a cough or a twinge or an ache or pain, and your first thought is cancer.  I self examine every day now, always checking my scars for new bumps.  But honestly, most of the time,  life has never been better.  I wake up each morning and thank God for another great day.  I roll over and see my beloved husband’s face and love and gratitude flood through me.  Flowers smell sweeter, friends are dearer, food tastes so good,  I am closer to my God,  I am healthy and confident and ready to take on even more world.  I am volunteering several hours a week, we square dance, socialize with our friends, and are just about done building our dream home.  I just had to get mad, and decide that I was not going to be defined by my cancer, I was going to kick it to the curb, and I was going to continue living my wonderful life.  Joining and becoming active in my breast cancer support group, the Bosom Buddies, has been one of the smartest things I have done.  Hearing others stories of cancer and struggle and survival has kept me on an even keel, helped me stay positive.  If those other men and women can survive their cancers, how can I not succeed?    Life has never been better, and I have decided that I was fortunate to have gotten cancer, as I am loving life even more than before, I don’t take anything for granted, I am not sweating any of that small stuff anymore, it is a waste of time.  I smile all the time, I am alive, I am well, life is good.  Cancer does not always mean death.  Not any more!!


  1. Isao Sakano says:

    Pat, your message tells all about you and Bob. We prayed for your recovery. However, we were confident that you would never go down with the cancer as we knew how well you had managed your crisis with AMI in Japan. You are person of forward-looking spirit. Even cancer could not block your life drew thoughtfully by both of you. Bob keeps you uplifted always and finally with the new home. We are far apart from each other geographically but very proud of being your Japanese friends for over 15 years. Time is for you now. We wish your plan to go to Alaska comes true. What of traveling to Japan? Isao & Eiko

  2. Sharon Rehbaum says:

    Karl and I wish all the best to you and Bob, and we know that God has given you another chance to enjoy each precious day that rolls around! Always know we will continue our positive support, through anything good or bad (no more bad times!) and always know you have LOTS OF FRIENDS here in Florida! Sharon & Karl Rehbaum

  3. Doug says:

    It has been my privilege and honor to know both Pat and Bob for the past 10 years, five of which were in a retirement community, and the the remainder distantly apart. Ever since the day my wife and I met Pat back in 1998, who was an ambassador for the community we were thinking of moving into in Florida, we said what vim and vigor she had. She spoke with such passion about her community, the people who lived there and what the community had to offer us. She left no stone unturned in her duties. After moving there it didn’t take us long to figure out that what we observed the first day we met Pat was not a show but the true Patricia Sharon.
    Everything Pat does she pours her heart and soul into. Whether she is talking about people, plants (her passion) or life situation in general, she is genuine and it is always heart felt. When Pat first revealed to us that she had breast cancer, I too, at first, felt bad, as I am sure all her friends did. I probably asked all the same questions as Pat and Bob did, but in a much different way, but still with the same anger and disbelief.
    I then turned to the Lord in prayer and asked for His blessing on Pat. I also asked for strength within the Knollenberg family and especially for Bob, Pat’s soul mate. Bob more then ever would need to be stronger, more patient then he already was and able to handle a plate with side boards on it that would be filled with life’s ups and downs.
    God has answered a whole bunch of people’s prayers and I know he has answered mine concerning Pat’s being. I thank HIM for that!!!!! My God continue to Bless You Pat and Bob!

    “You’re both true Friends”

  4. Nancy Nelson says:

    Anger — Getting mad — Strong emotion — All of this is good for us at times, and Pat truly showed that! We are all very proud of her and the better for knowing her.

  5. Becky Hamblin says:

    When Patricia Sharon told me she (Pat) had cancer, deep down I knew she would beat it. That is what a strong person she is. No matter what happens to her, she has a good cry, then her determination, and a very strong and stubborn will to live takes over. She can lick anything. She is my hero. She has been such a great friend, and an even greater inspiration to me. I am so very lucky and thank God each day that she is a part of our lives.

  6. Annie McDevitt says:

    And this is why Pat and Bob are such an inspiration to all who know them – God does answer the right prayers, and we are grateful that He answerd ours… I’m really glad that we are part of the rest of Pat’s life. Annie McD

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