Penny Sanders

In 2007, Penny had a routine mammogram that ended up not being so “routine.” She had normal fibroids in the past but they found a lump that was different. She was sent for a needle biopsy within a few days and, soon afterward, found out it was cancer. Penny said, “I was just so scared. I was a single mom to two teenage boys and the primary caregiver. I kept thinking about a neighbor that was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was little, and how everyone acted like it was a death sentence.”

Penny had lots of little tumors, not one big one, so she opted for a single mastectomy with reconstruction. The good news was that the surgery was successful and the cancer was contained so she did not have to have chemotherapy. But she still had to complete many more surgeries over the next year for reconstruction that were quite painful and financially draining. She said, “I had five surgeries for reconstruction, but as a single mom, I had to make the difficult decision to quit for financial reasons. I still had about four more surgeries left.” Penny said that was something she wishes she would have done differently. “I wish I would have known that there were organizations out there that could have helped me to finish the reconstruction.”

Penny knows the importance of family. She said that her two sisters and her mom went with her to her initial oncology appointment. Her oldest sister brought along a notebook with questions and for taking notes. “I was just numb and wasn’t hearing most of what was being said. In fact, that would be my best advice for anyone newly diagnosed with cancer – don’t do it alone. Take someone with you.” She also said that honesty was a big part of the experience. “I needed to be honest with my boys about what was going on. I didn’t want them to be scared or feel like I was hiding anything from them.”

Moving forward, Penny continues to spend a lot of time with her family – never missing a chance to celebrate all of life’s milestones and holidays. She is also still very close with her sons, who are now grown and living on their own. When she’s not taking day trips, redecorating, playing cards, and spending time with her long-term boyfriend, she is working. Yes. She worked through her entire cancer journey. She only took time off for surgeries and appointments. “Work was a great distraction for me, but I think I went back too soon after every surgery. But my co-workers provided me with a wonderful support system. In fact, on the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis, my employer threw me a party with pink ribbons everywhere. They gifted me with a gift certificate to a local tattoo parlor to get the tattoo on my shoulder I promised myself when my treatment was done.”

Since beating cancer, Penny’s greatest self-discovery is that she never hesitates to share her experience with others. She’s also a better listener and is capable of a higher level of empathy – and a lot of hugs. She said, “Cancer isn’t a death sentence, but it is a journey. What helped me the most is telling myself to ‘just keep going.’ There’s always something on the other side.”

Penny’s son, Andrew, is a part of our Operations Team at Onco360 as a Clinical Trial Operations Advisor. He said, “Seeing my mother and aunt battle cancer for most of my teenage years is what led me to Onco360. As an adult, I feel like I am helping in the fight against cancer, which made me feel so powerless in my youth. To some people this is a job, but to me it is a reminder of what good can be done.”

Back to Main Cancer Story Page

Learn More About Onco360