Three bouts with cancer was not enough to stop a Vacaville resident who has become the epitome of the word "survivor."
Pat McKnight began her battle against the big "C" 12 years ago, when she was diagnosed with and treated for bladder cancer. Unfortunately, things didn't end there and she would have two more episodes, most recently battling breast cancer after a 2010 mammogram revealed a tumor the size of an eraser on a pencil.
October is dubbed National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Events to raise awareness have been happening throughout the community in addition to those such as McKnight sharing their stories and advocating for others.
McKnight, 78, is cancer-free today but says she couldn't have made it through three bouts with it, not to mention regular checkups, without a strong support group.
"I'm a very strong person and I couldn't have done it without the Lord and my family," she said.
Her doctors at Sutter Medical Group would attest to her strong will.
In 2009, she went to her general practitioner over foot swelling concerns and was referred to podiatrist Dr. Nancy Kaplan.
A few PET scans later, she heard Kaplan tell her she was going to need her family, as the tests showed a cancerous growth.
"Dr. Kaplan is a very caring person and she was very concerned about how I was going to take this news, but she didn't realize how strong I am and how much stock I put into positive thinking," McKnight said. "I've had some unfortunate things
happen to me health-wise, but I've never had a negative thought about them."
On March 18, 2010, McKnight had surgery to remove a nine-inch tumor from her foot that was unlike anything the surgeon had ever seen. It was sent to the Mayo Clinic for a biopsy, and about a week later, she received a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Maintaining her positive attitude, she underwent a series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments over the course of about seven months.
"The treatment team told me I tolerated things better than anyone they'd ever seen," she said. "I never got sick or had chills, and I ate normally. I didn't totally feel like myself, but that was the only 'side effect' that occurred."
Shortly after she finished her course of treatment, she had a mammogram that detected a tumor in her breast. She had a lumpectomy in December 2010, and her mammograms since then have been clean.
After three cancer scares, McKnight hopes she's heard the last of that diagnosis, but she won't be surprised if it recurs. She attributes her predisposition to cancer to the fact that she spent years as a dental assistant in the days before the hazards of radiation from X-rays were understood.
McKnight comes from strong stock -- her parents lived to be 95 and 91 -- and she hopes she passed along those longevity genes to her two daughters, whom she notes were godsends during her medical challenges. She also has two granddaughters.
"All in all, I'm doing pretty good," McKnight said.
When it comes to cancer, she said that no one knows their body better than themselves and regular checks are critical in early detection.
"Everyone should check themselves," she said. "Check once a month. Don't wait. Call the doctor and be seen."