Tricia Lowrie stepped out of the bathtub exhausted after her biopsy.
She grabbed a towel to cover up, but not before looking down. Her right breast had transformed into a black and blue ball clinging to her chest.
Lowrie quickly covered up before staring at herself in the mirror. Her towel, gently wrapped around her body, offered temporary relief; with her bruised chest concealed, she didn’t feel like she was sick.
“It felt like for just a moment, I was normal,” Lowrie said. “For a moment, I wasn’t just the cancer girl, and my entire life wasn’t run by doctor appointments and drugs.”
Lowrie loosened her towel and looked down at her chest once more, staring at the breast that had been poked and prodded by doctors. Refusing to feel sorry for herself, she decided to turn her anger into strength.
“I got all of my frustration and anger out in one massive cry fest,” Lowrie said.
In 2016, Lowrie wouldn’t have thought that, one year later, she’d be a senior at the University of North Georgia, taking prerequisites for a nursing degree — or that she’d be a cancer survivor.
Last spring, at 46 years old and symptom-free, Lowrie was diagnosed with stage 2 HER2+ breast cancer.
“My oncologist said I was 20 years early for this cancer and my radiation doctor said I was one of the mystery people,” Lowrie said. “No one knew why I got it. I don’t have the genes for any hereditary cancers,” Lowrie said.
Her journey to becoming cancer-free included a six-round dose of a four-drug mixture administered three weeks apart.
“My infusions took six hours, and my cocktails were horrific,” Lowrie said. “Out of the three weeks, I [only] had one good one.
After Lowrie completed her chemotherapy, she had a lumpectomy, a surgery where only the tumor and surrounding tissue is removed from the breast. Fortunately, the surgery was successful. Shortly afterward, Lowrie received the news that she was cancer-free.
With her clean bill of health, Lowrie had no need for her port, playfully named “Porty McPortface.” Her doctors removed the coin-sized disk and thin catheter underneath her skin that allowed for blood transfusions and the administration of medications directly into a central vein.
Although Lowrie was happy to see everything that was associated with her breast cancer go, she started to feel less like “G.I. Jane,” the nickname she gave herself while fighting the breast cancer.
After having titanium markers implanted in her breast tissue to help doctors locate her cancer site for future reference, Lowrie gave up her “G.I. Jane” nickname. She now calls herself “Wolverine.”
“I nicknamed everything, my large tumor was Big Daddy, and the smaller tumor was Little Daddy,” Lowrie said.
“After the surgery to remove the remaining tumors, [the doctors] put in guidewires, so I had wires sticking out of my chest,” Lowrie said. “I looked down, and all I could think of was Marvin the Martian. I had to tell the nurse, and after that, we laughed for the rest of the day. Laughter always makes it better.”
Moments like these made Lowrie realize just how important nurses are, especially when going through chemo.
“I was looking at my nurses and told my husband that I could see myself doing that, work in the infusion room with cancer patients,” Lowrie said. “[Their] outlook and how they take care of you can make all the difference in the world.”
After experiencing the positive impact that Lowrie’s nurses had on her, she decided to become a nurse. Lowrie is in the process of completing her prerequisites so she can apply to UNG’s nursing program.
“By my number of [credit] hours, I am considered a senior, by my age, too,” Lowrie said. “If I get into the program starting Spring 2019, I will have a nursing degree in 2021, and I will be 50 years old. What a nice way to spend my 50th birthday.”
Her oncologist, whom she sees two times a year for checkups, wants Lowrie to work for him when she graduates from UNG.
“[My oncologist] and the nurses are always checking my progress in school and reiterating that they want me to work [at their office] when I finish,” Lowrie said. “My oncologist told one of the nurses that I was going to work there one day, and I was going to help a lot of people. If that doesn’t give you inspiration, I don’t know what would.”
“When I first started UNG, I was still doing Herceptin infusions, a part of a chemotherapy regimen, burned from radiation I sure did stick out,” Lowrie said. “I was as bald as a bowling ball and the oldest person in the class, but nothing would interfere with my schooling.”
When Lowrie has to miss class to go to check-ups, her professors are very understanding. She works hard and doesn’t let her appointments get in the way of her education.
Lowrie is not in the nursing program yet, but when she gets there, she believes her medical experience will give her the level of empathy she could never have without her battle with cancer.
“My husband once asked me if I could change things and not have cancer would I, and I answered no,” Lowrie said. “So many people have gotten their mammograms because of my little adventure, that effect is priceless.”
G.I Jane is not fighting cancer anymore, but her mission to help others through her experience will never end.
“I pray I can be someone that gives comfort to that patient that comes into the infusion room scared and unsure of what is going to happen,” Lowrie said. “I made it, and I want them to know they can too.”