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Breast cancer survivor: PINK at Piedmont gave me a life worth living

“I had been walking around with breast cancer for years, oblivious to the fact,” says Gillian Mason, a breast cancer patient at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. Mason says she always thought she was “too busy” to get a mammogram. She had been experiencing terrible pain in her back and leg, but assumed it was arthritis. To be sure, she went to her primary care physician and underwent a set of X-rays.

The next day, Mason’s physician called to tell her they may have found something malignant on her left femur. He then asked when she last had a mammogram. Mason soon learned she had stage IV breast cancer. “It explained why I had been feeling so bad and so sick – I couldn’t put my finger on anything in particular, other than arthritis,” she says.

Two weeks later, surgeons placed a titanium steel rod in her left femur. “They were more concerned about the bone cancer than the breast cancer at that point,” says Mason. “I was very fortunate that the cancer was 98 percent positive to estrogen, so it was very treatable.”

PINK at Piedmont

Soon thereafter, Mason joined PINK at Piedmont, a 12-week program at Cancer Wellness that includes twice-weekly exercise classes, nutrition consultation and education, and stress reduction through guided imagery and yoga classes. Mason said she noticed a difference in her strength and stamina while participating in PINK at Piedmont. “I didn’t have to rest up for two days before doing something or going somewhere,” she says. “I just loved every session.

The women who were in the group, we all related to one another as to what we had all been through. Everybody’s cancer is different. It was a really nice, cohesive, friendly group. I was making new friends, I was getting advice I could use. My days got longer, I slept better at night and I could walk again without my walking stick.” Mason can now press 100 pounds with her left leg, thanks to PINK’s exercise component.

She was also able to meet one of her biggest goals: walking her two large dogs. “I was terrified they would knock me down or pull me over,” she says. “It took four years before I could actually take two 85-pound dogs out on leashes and walk in the neighborhood. PINK saved my life. It certainly gave me a life that’s worth living.” All PINK at Piedmont participants are required to have a release to exercise from their oncologist and to make a 12-week commitment.

Program participation is open to women currently undergoing treatment and up to eight months post-treatment. This program is provided in collaboration with the Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center and the Doris Shaheen Breast Health Center at Piedmont Atlanta. It is sponsored by It’s the Journey, Inc., Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. Cancer Wellness programs are offered free to Piedmont patients and anyone in the community affected by cancer, thanks to the generous support of donors. For more information about PINK at Piedmont and other programs, visit Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.

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