05/15/05 — Mother, daughters celebrate their victories over cancer

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Mother, daughters celebrate their victories over cancer

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 15, 2005 2:01 AM

Pat Reboli and her two daughters take part in Relay for Life in Goldsboro each year. But, unlike most of the participants, the three of them have a common bond -- they have all had cancer.

Daughter Patty Spears, 46, was the first be diagnosed in August 1999 with invasive ductile carcinoma -- a kind of breast cancer -- in one breast and pre-cancer in the other.

It was locally advanced so she had six months of chemotherapy before having surgery. Then she had a bilateral mastectomy followed by six weeks of radiation therapy.

The Raleigh resident has been cancer-free for 51/2 years.

Her 71-year-old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 1999, just 31/2 months after Patty learned she had cancer.

"Mine was similar to Patty's, but very small," said Mrs. Reboli, who lives in Goldsboro. "So I had a mastectomy in December 1999."

Then in January 2001, daughter Ginny Matsey, 47, of Raleigh was diagnosed with a borderline ovarian tumor and had a complete hysterectomy. "That's basically the cure for the kind of cancer I had," she said.

"Patty was the first one in our family on either side to ever have cancer," said Mrs. Reboli. That just blew our minds. I was truly devastated.

"But she never worried. Patty was so positive and I'd go up to her house often and we'd talk, laugh, cry. She just said 'let's go forward.' So when I was diagnosed, it didn't bother me that much.

"Then it was another devastating thing when my second daughter was diagnosed with cancer. Our friends just can't believe that the three of us have had cancer."

Mrs. Matsey said that her mother had encouraged her to go to the doctor when she was having a "little" problem. "They found the tumor almost by accident. So it was caught early.

"Having a sister and mother also with cancer, I actually felt really lucky after seeing what Patty had to go through with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery and mom with surgery."

Mrs. Spears and Mrs. Matsey have been coming from Raleigh for the past three or four years to do the Relay with their mother. They are on the Purple Star Survivors team.

Mrs. Reboli became involved with the event first, then got her two daughters involved.

All three women had luminarias on the track during the Relay.

"It's a celebration of life," said Mrs. Spears. "It also helps us remember those who haven't made it. Every year that I come, it gives me a sense of accomplishment. Also, I see people here that I see only once a year and we reconnect. It's common place for survivors to come together."

Mrs. Matsey said she "feels good coming to the Relay each year. It is something that the three of us can do together that we all have a part in. It's a good bonding time. And it feels good to help raise money for cancer research."

"The main thing is that we all three are doing well," Mrs. Reboli said. "It's a life-changing phenomenon to have any kind of cancer. We just keep going and pray every day that we stay cancer-free."

She says it's an extra mother-daughter bond when all three have had cancer. "We have a lot in common," said Mrs. Reboli. "We also go to the national cancer race for a cure in Washington D.C. and the Research Triangle's race for a cure."

Mrs. Spears works at North Carolina State University doing breast cancer research.