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Survivor stories: Paulette Zinkann

Editor's Note: October is breast cancer awareness month, and each Saturday the Daily Post will publish the story of a local breast cancer survivor, culminating with the "Read Pink" edition on Oct. 27. The feature will take readers through the battle in a survivor's own words. -- Compiled by staff writer Tyler Estep

The Survivor

• Name: Paulette Zinkann

• City: LIlburn

• Age: 57

• Occupation: Cancer program coordinator, Eastside Medical Center

• Date of diagnosis: March 31, 1995 (thyroid cancer in 2010)

• Type: Lobular carcinoma in-situ

My diagnosis: I have never feared cancer. In fact, I used to be fairly nonchalant about it, even though there was a strong history of breast cancer in my family. All of my mom's sisters had been diagnosed with cancer, but I simply removed myself from the cancer equation.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was 39 years old and married with two small children. Suspicious microcalcifications were found on a routine mammogram, and a lumpectomy followed. I was diagnosed with lobular carcinoma in situ, and was told by my surgeon that I wouldn't die from the disease.

Nothing else was recommended. I did not consider myself a cancer survivor, and never let the disease strike a deep chord in my life. I was young and too busy. I was also embarking on a new adventure in life. I was going to be working as a cancer registrar. Having cancer was only a stumbling point.

My battle: It was at an American Cancer Society training program that I actually came to grips with being a cancer survivor. Role playing was part of our training, and I was chosen to play the part of a cancer survivor. For my exercise, my dear friend and actual breast cancer survivor Susan was trying to encourage me to talk about my disease.

The whole class was surprised that I wasn't play acting, but was actually speaking as a survivor. I starting talking about having had breast cancer, and told her how my surgeon was very cavalier about my diagnosis and that I didn't feel worthy of being a cancer survivor. In front of a class, I wept and finally admitted that I was indeed a breast cancer survivor, even with an in-situ diagnosis.

It took a long time to admit it, but I couldn't deny it anymore. I had to face the facts.

My advice: Unfortunately, my cancer journey didn't end with breast cancer. In 2010, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which had spread to my lymph nodes. In the trade, we call this a second primary. I am a cancer statistic, and can no longer shrug it off. I accept it as a part of life. That's just the way I roll.

So, what do I do know? As a cancer statistician, I continue to report the disease. As a volunteer for ACS, I work with mission delivery. I continue to visit patients. I continue to talk about my disease.

But I do not fear cancer. Never have. Never will. And I shall continue to fight it. To my last breath.