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Falls Superintendent to Undergo Breast Cancer Treatment Monday

Dr. Patricia Greco take a temporary leave beginning Wednesday, and is expecting to return Jan. 16 while recovering from breast cancer - early detection has been key to planning treatment.

Earlier this month, Menomonee Falls Superintendent Dr. Patricia Greco was diagnosed with breast cancer. Rather than shying from the public, Greco has decided to remain public about her battle with cancer and will update the community about her progress.

On Tuesday, Greco sent the latest news on her battle against cancer as she prepares for surgery on Dec. 5. Greco said she hopes her public battle with cancer will help raise awareness for others in the community.

Here is the context of Greco's latest update, which was sent to staff and the media:

Again, Joe and I want to thank everyone for the care and support.  We have received hundreds of cards, emails and calls.  Please know that the offer of prayers and extension of care are deeply appreciated.

Many know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer on Nov. 9.  I have an extensive history of cancer in my family. Because of that, I have been in the process of careful attention to regular appointments for many years. My risk factor actually became a blessing in this process, I knew I was at a higher risk than most. So, I went in on the day of the next scheduled appointment. I never delayed. So when diagnosed they caught it early.  Many aren't that fortunate.

I have learned a lot through this process; about cancer, myself, support, and about how challenging sharing this message is with your own children. I made the decision early on to be very open with my diagnosis. I know how challenging this process has been for 15 years of early testing. I have lost people very close to me who were not diagnosed early with cancers that impact both men and women. If keeping the conversation high helps one person detect their illness early, then keeping the conversation public has been worth it.

What I already knew was the risk from my own family history.  What I never really knew was that Caucasian women in North America have the highest incidence of breast cancer in the world. I am white, I am 50, and have an extensive family history. So I was at high risk of developing breast cancer. 

I have had three biopsies in the past. They put markers in my left breast monitoring those spots.  I went in every six months. A year ago they told me I could wait a year to come back in for my next series of mammograms and ultrasounds because things at that time looked good.

One year later they diagnosed me with cancer. 

The tumors on Nov. 9 were found in my right breast. So, both sides are impacted. The tumors themselves are at stage 2 cancer; they are considered an aggressive type of cancer but have not spread beyond the breast tissue. Truly a blessing. 

This type of cancer could be treated with a lumpectomy.  Due to my family history and the involvement on both sides, I made the decision for a full double mastectomy. With this treatment plan, I will not need to go through radiation or chemotherapy because I am making the decision for the full mastectomy. Had I elected to go through a lumpectomy, the treatment plan would have included six weeks of daily radiation and five years of drug therapy.

What I have deeply appreciated through this process has been the focus on true teaching (a passion of mine you know) the team at Froedtert has taken me through so Joe and I could make the best decision.

The struggles in the process were how hard it is to wait for each test result to come back. But, mostly, how hard it was to tell our children. The level of emotion Joe and I were going through personally was already a challenge. We then needed to figure out how to tell the girls in a way that would be honest, supportive and hopeful; all before we clearly knew the full scope of what we were dealing with. 

My career is so  focused on strategic planning, forecasts, detailed planning and careful preparation. Personally, I was at a loss as how to do this planning well.  When I went public, many people reached out immediately with resources and sound input. That made the decision to go public again the right one for us.

How someone defines an extended family may be by birth and bloodlines. What we have experienced is a deep level of care coming from many people. Family, long-time friends, new friends, the board, staff, colleagues, students, parents, community members and the list goes on. Going through the process is a challenge. Going through it alone would be a mistake.

My last day at work will be Wednesday. We have a remarkably strong leadership team, board, and staff. I am deeply thankful for their direct assistance. The recovery period is expected to be six weeks initially with four months needed for the full recovery process. Monday, Dec. 5 is the surgery. By that evening, I should be cancer free. By Jan. 16, I should be back at work. 

Our personal diligence will not end. We have daughters and parents who we love deeply. The focus on early detection and continued prevention will stay high in our family. 

So, if I may make a suggestion for this year with your New Year's resolution, here it is:

In addition to eating right, exercising more, add to this year's list your appointments that need to be made...all of them....for everyone. And keep the commitment for yourself and for your families.  May you each have the gift of love from friends and family this holiday season and each day going forward.

For that I am truly the most thankful.

Pat Greco

Elizabeth Boeck November 30, 2011 at 01:55 AM
What an awesome brave women Dr. Greco is to share her journey. I feel that she will surely help save the lives of many women who read her story. My prayers are with her and her family as she goes through treatment. May they find themselves surrounded by people that love and support them.

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