Cancer survivor seeks to give back as life coach
ONEIDA — A Central New York native, Patti McGee‘s breast cancer diagnosis changed her life and set her on a path that has her helping others.
McGee was the recreational director for the city of Oneida in 2002, and in October of that year, she was helping clean up after a Halloween party.
“I thought I pulled a muscle, and that’s when I found a lump right under my collarbone,” McGee said.
“I had it checked in early November and was sent right away for a mammogram and ultrasound. And that day, they asked me what surgeon I wanted,” she added.
On Dec. 13, 2002, McGee was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Today, they can test for so much. But back then, we knew it was estrogen positive,” McGee said.
“And depending on what doctor you talked to, it was something different. My radiologist said it was stage three aggressive, my surgeon said it was stage three, and my oncologist said it was stage two,” she said.
McGee had a lumpectomy in December 2002 and a partial mastectomy of the right side in January 2003.
Getting that diagnosis so close to Christmas left McGee a mess. She said she couldn’t function and couldn’t think properly.
“My son was nine at the time, and I remember apologizing to him because I got two strands of lights on the tree and couldn’t finish,” McGee said. “I had to wait until the day after Christmas to get the results on whether it had spread or not. And that’s all I could focus on. I didn’t know what to think.”
McGee said her son, Dylan, was understanding and they celebrated Christmas with the grandparents.
It didn’t spread, but the treatment wasn’t over. McGee went through chemotherapy in March 2003.
“I wouldn’t wish chemotherapy on my worst enemy,” McGee said. “But here I am, 20 years later, with a whole different life.”
A few years after chemotherapy and having recovered, McGee said she got an idea to write a book to help people like her going through treatment and recovery.
The book, “Hope An Inspiring A-Z Guide for Cancer Patients, Survivors and Caregivers” tells not only McGee’s journey to recovery but those of others who fought cancer and won.
“After I finished chemotherapy and radiation, I struggled for three years as I tried to figure out who I was and who was the new me,” McGee said. “I remember sitting with my head between my legs, rocking and thinking there was something more than this, to this life now.”
McGee had scar tissue from her operation and had found a massage therapist in Oneida who helped work on it and make it more bearable. And during one of those sessions, McGee felt inspired and wanted to try being a massage therapist herself.
“I wanted to do something else. I got my massage license and opened a shop in 2008,” McGee said. “But I still wasn’t the me I wanted to be. There was still more.”
McGee said she felt convinced the reason she ended up with cancer was because of her lifestyle. “I was stressed, I was a heavy drinker, and I hadn’t taken care of myself properly,” she said. So, McGee started to change her life for the better.
In 2019, McGee moved to Georgia to be closer to her son Dylan and became a life coach and motivational speaker.
“I do massage work, I do motivational speaking, and I help women who want to overcome judgment from themselves and their past, or overcome their disease or illness,” she said. “It’s my passion.”
More than anything, McGee said she loves being a life coach for cancer survivors.
“If we truly asked survivors what their life was like when they got diagnosed or if they’ve had trauma, I’d say 90% of them say yes,” she said. “I want to help people move forward to a more purposeful life.”
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