Pasco County Clerk and Comptroller Paula O’Neil has spent years championing the need for women to get breast cancer screening tests. That very advice may have just paid off in saving O’Neil’s life.
The longtime Pasco County official and chairwoman of Pasco’s annual Making Strides for Breast Cancer event was recently diagnosed with the very disease she has helped raise awareness for.
O’Neil announced her diagnosis publically on the Support Sheriff Nocco Facebook page.
“I wanted to get the message out so people would know I am okay and to encourage others to get their mammograms,” O’Neil wrote in an email to Patch. “Early detection is important.”
Here is O’Neil’s letter in its entirety:
I would prefer to tell you this news in person; however, logistics make that quite difficult, and I do not want any of you to hear this news through the grapevine.
A couple of weeks ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am undergoing treatment at Moffitt, which will include surgery and, most likely, chemotherapy. My oncology team is tremendous and each member is dedicated to the latest research techniques. The team has assured me that I will survive, and we all know how precious each day of life is!
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at this very same age, and my brother is a colon cancer survivor. While I did not see myself at risk for cancer, my surgeon said that is the case for 90% of her patients. In fact, estimates are that more than 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
It is my intention to work throughout the treatment process, although I will take a couple weeks off after surgery and may need time off for chemotherapy treatments. While a surgery date has not been set yet, we are looking at the end of June or early July. When the date is scheduled, I will let you know.
Those of you who have traveled this road are a constant inspiration to me, and I want to thank you for having the courage to fight this disease. The accumulated research from cancer survivors has led us to a day where the survival rate is impressively high. You are making a difference!
Caregivers for cancer survivors are gifts from God, and I know all of you have played that role in one way or another. I am thankful that my brother and sister are going to fly in to help me after surgery.
As you can imagine, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer has a whole new meaning to me, and I am thankful to all of you who have worked so hard to raise funding for the American Cancer Society through Making Strides and Relay for Life. It matters.
A few weeks ago I was in Jacksonville with my nephew's family before he deployed to the Middle East. We played a board game that made us do silly things. Well, I had to try to hum a song for my team to recognize. Because I cannot carry a tune by singing or humming, my team did not get that point. Anyway, the song was "Stayin' Alive," and I have fondly chosen that song as my theme song!
Please do not be sad for me. I share this news with you to let you know about my situation and ask for your positive thoughts and encouragement.
I believe and I choose happiness.
I will fight like a girl and win!
Thank you for your friendship.