In 2006, when Priscilla Gorner visited Harris Health Martin Luther King regarding a heart condition, her doctor discovered it had been 20 years since her last mammogram. The exam was scheduled, and it was fine. A comparison mammogram six months later revealed a small mass in her right breast. She was immediately scheduled for a biopsy at Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital. The tumor was malignant.
“I remember looking at the floor and wondering, ‘What do we do now?’ I had to keep my wits and stay positive,” Priscilla says. “You can’t wig out. That’s what I tell my patients.”
Her patients are other women with breast cancer. Priscilla is a member of the Pink PENs, Personal Experience Navigators who offer support and encouragement to patients. She visits with patients at Harris Health Smith Clinic, a place she loves, staffed with people she loves.
But first, she dealt with her own recovery. When she started her journey, she had no idea she would eventually have six surgeries at Ben Taub Hospital and radiation. “I still have my breast,” she says. “It’s not pretty, but I love it.” A retired teacher, she maintains a private music studio and never missed a lesson. Very few people knew about her cancer. “I continued the things I enjoyed,” she says. “Life doesn’t stop.
“I never thought for a moment that I couldn’t handle my cancer. It just wasn’t an issue. God doesn’t heal us just to be comfortable, but is molding us to be comforters.”
Yet, when she was asked to be a Pink PEN, she declined because of a heavy schedule and a concern that she wouldn’t be effective. “As soon as I hung up the phone, I heard a still, small voice, ‘You can do this. I will tell you what to say.’ I heard that for three weeks until I called back to agree.”
The advice offered by the voice has helped hundreds of patients: 1) Keep your faith, and call on that faith; 2) Keep a positive attitude and be thankful; 3) Have confidence in the doctors, nurses and medical staff who administer treatment; 4) Continue to do the things you enjoy; and 5) Listen to music and interact with a pet to ease anxiety.
The advice worked for her. The patients she encourages say it’s working for them, too.