Penny's Story: Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Little Abby Hornick runs out the back door, tears streaming down her cheeks, as she looks and finds what she needs most: her mom. Penny Hornick’s attention immediately turns toward her 5-year-old, who brushes back her blond locks through sobs, showing her mother where her sister’s foot accidentally hit her face during a bit of cartwheel play. Her mom scoops her up in a bear-like hug, and, like magic, everything is OK.

As a comforted Abby trots back inside in search of her sisters, Avery, 8, and Alissa, 22, Penny turns to a visitor on the back deck of her Littleton home and says that moments like those are the reason she’s still here today.

"I cried for at least 30 minutes solid. The first thing I thought about was my kids."

Last March, Penny, an EKG technician with Sky Ridge Medical Center, found a lump in her breast during a self-exam. A mammogram and biopsy ensued, through which the 47-year-old tried to remain positive. "Of course, when my OB called and said we have the results of the biopsy back, and you need to get over here right away, I just slid down the wall and lost it," she says.

Now, she hopes her experience can serve as a lesson to other women that self-exams, followed by determination, support and good medical care, can lead to happy success stories.

Her husband, Greg, the Director of Intensive Care Unit at Sky Ridge, was quickly by Penny’s side in the doctors’ office, her girls in the waiting room, as she heard her cancer diagnosis. "I cried for at least 30 minutes solid. The first thing I thought about was my kids." From the very beginning, her doctor was supportive, her husband like a rock, despite the emotional trauma it was for him, Penny says.

For Penny, the initial emotions—anger, fear, sadness—were overwhelming, especially when she thought of her girls. "Just knowing that I could leave this world without them, and knowing that I might not be able to see them grow up." But soon, she turned that fear into fierce determination.

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