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Loukeysela Patterson

Patient Finds Strength to Knock Out Breast Cancer

African American Woman smiling siting in front of a pink wall

Support from her children, friends on social media, her parents, and the Riverside care team lift Loukeysela Patterson to persevere in the fight of her life.

 

Loukeysela Patterson never thought of herself as a fighter. Nobody could have told her what her body was capable of or how much she could endure. Patterson never imagined sitting in a Riverside exam room while a doctor delivered news that she had breast cancer.

“Stage II.”

Patterson heard the words and flashed to her daughter’s face. She had four children — three are adults, but Genesis was just 10.

“I need to fight for her,” Patterson remembers thinking.

When she found something out of the ordinary on her right breast during a self-exam in the shower, Patterson wasn’t overly alarmed. Years before, she felt a cyst that later was drained. She was mindful about performing self-exams monthly, and that left no doubt that what she was feeling this time was different.

“I knew it wasn’t there the month before,” she says.

After a visit with Riverside nurse practitioner Priscilla Bullen, a mammogram was followed by a biopsy. Told to bring someone with her to the appointment for the results, she leaned on her children’s father, Galvino Green. He was the one who thought to ask all the questions that eluded her when the doctor broke the news.

“He asked what I needed to know,” Patterson says, overwhelmed with processing the details.

Five days later, Patterson met with her oncologist, Dr. Flavia Kostov, at Riverside for the first time. The following afternoon, a port was put into her chest, and on Nov. 5, 2020, she had her first chemotherapy appointment. Every three weeks for the next six months, Patterson underwent treatments that lasted six hours each time.

“It was tough. Really, really tough,” she says. Patterson suffered multiple side effects — mouth sores, nausea and vomiting were among the worst. 

Patterson started radiation, too — five days a week for five weeks — under the supervision of Dr. Biral Amin, a Riverside Radiation Oncologist.

Patterson is a nurse, used to helping others. For years she worked with special needs adults, many of them autistic. Now she was on the receiving end, grateful for the patience and tireless understanding shown by the Riverside nurses, especially one she calls Nurse Patti.

“The nurses took care of me,” she says. “They were always nice, and I appreciate them. It takes a strong person to watch someone fight that hard.”

The days were long. So were the nights. Patterson struggled to sleep. Her breast was sensitive even to the soft sheets, residue from the effects of radiation. When Genesis would hear her mother in the bathroom in the middle of the night, she’d peek inside and ask, “Are you OK?” 

“She’s matured so much, much faster than I wanted,” Patterson says.

Patterson loved the long hair she always had but knew it would fall out. So, her eldest daughter, Autumn, shaved her mother’s head. “The rest of my kids stood around watching, laughing and crying,” Patterson says.

That was one of the few times Patterson shed tears. Though she always considered herself a crybaby, she didn’t have the energy for that. She needed all of her reserve to fight the cancer inside of her. There were only bad days and worse days. No good days. If Patterson started to feel better, she knew it was time for another round of chemo.

“Sometimes I had to go to my doctor in between appointments to get fluids so I could stay hydrated,” she says.

On March 29, 2021, Dr. Jane Wey, a Riverside Surgical Oncologist, removed the tumor without taking the breast. Dr. Kostov reviewed every detail before and after.

“She explained everything,” Patterson says. “She drew pictures. I just loved that she broke everything down. She made me understand what my body was doing.”

The surgery was a success. But one cancerous cell in a lymph node meant Patterson needed more chemotherapy, this time every three weeks for a year.

“I was relieved after the surgery, but it was heartbreaking to know it wasn’t over,” she says. “But I didn’t want to let my baby see me down. She kept me going.”

The second chemotherapy potion wasn’t as powerful, but Patterson, finishing up the protocol now, still feels wiped out afterward.

“But it’s not as bad as before,” she says.

Patterson persevered with the help of her Riverside care team, Genesis, her other children whom she calls cheerleaders, her parents, and more friends and supporters than she ever knew she had, many who wrote positive notes on her Facebook page. In fact, Patterson discovered enough strength inside of herself to reach out to others undergoing similar treatment. She’s drawn to stories on social media, once connecting with a woman who has brain cancer who found comfort by hearing about all that Patterson had overcome.

Patterson wasn’t public about her diagnosis initially. She didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her. But she was moved to schedule a photo shoot in her front yard, depicting her fight against cancer. One snapshot reveals her in boxing gloves.

“It is an actual fight because you have to be mentally strong to go through this,” she says. “You sometimes wonder, ‘How can somebody’s body be so sick and still function?’ It’s a mental thing. You wonder, ‘How does anyone do this?’”

Along with strength, Patterson developed perspective. Her final chemotherapy treatment will be Jan. 20, 2022. Scans thus far have revealed no more cancer. “I have so much living to do,” she says.

That new car she put off for someday? Patterson plans to buy a Lexus. The trips she’s often found a reason not to go on? Patterson plans to travel.

“I have so much I want to see,” she says.

Patterson looks forward to returning to work, inspired by the selflessness of the Riverside nurses. She can’t wait to go out to eat with Genesis again; they both enjoy exploring new foods.

Patterson used to dismiss the idea of her own birthday being meaningful. She turns 44 in March. “I’m going to celebrate my next birthday,” she promises.

Christmas, too, has a special meaning. While Patterson is still not 100%, she feels better than she did a year ago, and for that, she is grateful.

Her smile hasn’t faded. It brightened Patterson’s entire face, even during the challenging times when she felt nothing but misery. She wonders if the reason she got cancer was to show others what they are capable of.

“You never know. Somebody might be going through something worse than me, and maybe my smile can uplift them,” she says. “My smile is everything. Keep yourself. Don’t let cancer change who you are.”