Cathy Longino of Flowery Branch has worked for the American Cancer Society for 24 years and on June 28th she was diagnosed with breast cancer. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
American Cancer Society employee discusses battle with breast cancer
American Cancer Society employee Cathy Longino is recovering after treatment for a diagnosis of IDC — or invasive ductal carcinoma — in June.
In her almost 24 years with the American Cancer Society, Cathy Longino has listened to countless stories from patients just diagnosed with cancer, those battling the disease, individuals recovering from treatment and surgeries and survivors celebrating life.
“I’ve heard hundreds and hundreds of cancer survivor stories and I’ve been absolutely amazed at the strength they have,” Longino said.
She now has her own story to tell.
“You never can put yourself in the shoes of someone being diagnosed with cancer,” Longino said. “Now I can. I’ve lived it.”
Longino, 57, was diagnosed with IDC — or invasive ductal carcinoma — on June 28.
“I think I felt like I was prepared to hear the words and then my surgeon said, ‘OK, we’re going to send the biopsy off and I’ll call you in a week,’” Longino remembered. “You spend that entire week worrying. How do you prepare your family? How do you prepare your friends? How is it going to affect me personally? Just a plethora of stuff your mind goes through.”
Longino was sitting by the phone with a friend when she received the call.
“You would think being with this organization as long as I’ve been you’re prepared to hear those words … ‘You have cancer,’” she said. “I probably went through the emotions of thinking that I was strong, just being with ACS as long as I have, but emotionally I was probably just a wreck, just like 99 percent of anybody diagnosed with cancer will be.”
Since that time, Longino underwent a bilateral mastectomy Aug. 22. She is now going through the process of reconstruction.
Longino is a year into the job of senior manager for Relay for Life here in Gwinnett County — this year’s 2013 fundraising initiative raised $1,847,815 to put Gwinnett Relay at the top of the list of money raised by Relay events worldwide. Talking with cancer patients and survivors, which Longino does often in her job, is very different now.
“I have so many cancer survivors that I talk to on a regular basis, so I’ve always been able to have a lot of empathy for them,” Longino said. “Now, with my diagnosis, I understand completely what they go through. When they’re talking about their journey I can understand because I’ve walked in their shoes.”
Longino said she was fortunate to have been diagnosed with stage one breast cancer and did not require chemotherapy or radiation.
“I think my story is a success story. I’m very happy with the outcome,” she said. “Right now I have to take a pill a day for the next five years and I check in with my oncologist every six months, so I’m right in the middle of the process right now, my journey, so to speak, so (I’m) very fortunate.
“I have the American Cancer Society to thank for that,” she continued, “all the research that has gone into making breast cancer so survivable. There’s a lot of brave cancer survivors out there. I happen to be one of them.”