Marilyn Payton and Jocelyn Bronson are co-workers for the Town of Marana, but their connection runs deeper than the nine-to-five grind. The two women belong to a sisterhood that you automatically become a part of once you are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Bronson, the Marana town clerk, is a mentor for Payton, who is the town’s senior program coordinator. Bronson is a 23-year survivor, while Payton found herself going through treatment three years ago.
Bronson was 38 years old when she felt a strange pain shoot through her breast while on vacation. When she returned, she said she could have stayed in denial, but the voice in the back of her head kept telling her something was wrong.
“I had never felt a lump, but I think I was in denial,” she said. “I thought if I didn’t think about it, it would go away.”
With no history of breast cancer in the family, Bronson said it was tough to believe it could happen to her, especially at such a young age.
For Payton, the story is different. With a family history, she wasn’t surprised when a lump was discovered during a routine mammogram.
Even though her mother and sister were survivors, Payton said being diagnosed was still tough, and having Bronson nearby was important.
Bronson said being diagnosed was tough. She had to endure a modified radical mastectomy, which means doctors removed the tissue and not the muscle. Treatment also required six months of chemotherapy.
“It was terrible. The diagnosis was bad, but I think I was making a lot of decisions in a fog,” said Bronson. “My husband would recall things that the doctor had said to me that I didn’t even listen to or hear.”
While it’s still tough to talk about the personal ordeal, Bronson said she eventually learned the power of helping. She started telling her story, including talking to a group of 30 people during a brown-bag lunch.
Bronson said while the diagnosis was tough, her recovery was “picture perfect.” She said she understands that recovery for others is different, attitudes are different, but all patients need some sort of support line.
Payton agreed that having a support line was important, but making decisions about treatment wasn’t so tough. Payton opted for the bilateral mastectomy, which she stressed eliminated about 98 percent of the problem.
Looking at the positive side, Payton joked that having both breasts removed has done nothing but help her golf game.
Now, both Bronson and Payton consider themselves part of a sisterhood. The two participate in several programs aimed at breast cancer support.
Both women also agree that it is important for all women to realize the disease can strike all ages, and self exams and annual checkups are the keys to prevention.
“You need to remember you are not alone. You need to understand that not everyone survives,” said Bronson. “I am fortunate. I shouldn’t have left it as long as I did.”