Punch knocks out two rounds of breast cancer

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Vicki Punch, left, practice manager at the Mercy Clinic in Cassville, overlooks Laura Alvarez, patient services representative, as she helps a patient at the clinic. Punch has defeated two bouts of cancer, and she hopes to start a support group in the Cassville community to help other who may be going through the same battle. Kyle Troutman editor@cassville-democrat.com

Mercy Clinic employee hopes to start support group in Cassville area

For Vicki Punch, practice manager at the Mercy Clinic in Cassville, it doesn't matter how many rounds of breast cancer come her way, she will defeat them.

First diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, Punch underwent a mastectomy and was said to be cancer-free, but the disease reared its ugly head again in 2009, leading her to conquer it yet again.

"The last time, the radiologist here, Gail, said even though they don't do it often, we should do a mammogram on my reconstructed breast, and that's when she found it again," Punch said. "I credit her for saving my life."

Punch's second battle with breast cancer was more involved than the first, as she underwent a second mastectomy, along with chemotherapy and radiation treatments that lasted about a year, ending in May of 2010.

As her father died from brain cancer, Punch said being diagnosed not just once, but twice, was a tough road to travel.

"Like anybody, I was in total shock [in 2001]," she said. "My dad died from cancer, so I was convinced that it would also happen to me.

"The second time was different because I had gone through it before, so I knew I wouldn't absolutely die from it. But, at the same time, they said I was cured, and here I was again."

Punch said the key to knocking out the disease is attitude, and the more positive the better.

"A positive attitude makes a world of difference," she said. "I also had lots of friends and family support, and the workplace here at Mercy was wonderful in supporting and helping me. It's nice to have someone there to listen to you and support you emotionally and spiritually."

Punch said dealing with the disease twice in the last 15 years has made her love life a little bit more.

"I try to experience life as much as I can and do things with an attitude like, 'Dad gum, I've got my life and I'm going to live it,'" she said.

While always trying to maintain that positive outlook, Punch said at times it's hard, as the fear of a second recurrence is forever lurking.

"I go to my oncologist and my surgeon and my oncologist says, 'You're almost at five years and then we can say you're cured,'" she said. "But, I've heard that before. So yes, there is that fear, but you can't let it hold you back."

Punch, who lives in Neosho, said the experience has made her want to be more involved in the lives of others who may be going through the same thing.

"My goal is to start a cancer support group in the community because we don't have one," she said. "So, I'm bound and determined to get that going, and I've had a lots of interested people who think it would be a great resource.

"People want someone to talk to, and someone who has had cancer, been through that experience and beat it," she said. "A lot of women don't know what to expect, so they just want to talk to someone about their feelings."

Punch also said if any women are not getting mammograms, they should, as early detection is key in defeating breast cancer, as well as a good attitude.

"Get your mammograms if you haven't yet," she said. "I just think attitude makes all the difference, and having cancer makes you more aware of how important each and every day really is."

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