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Pasco Clerk of Court goes public with breast cancer battle

Pasco Clerk of Court Paula O’Neil says she plans to keep working most of the time during treatment.

Pasco Clerk of Court Paula O’Neil says she plans to keep working most of the time during treatment.

It started several weeks ago when she felt a lump.

Pasco Clerk of Court Paula O'Neil, who had always emerged healthy during routine mammograms, got the diagnosis. Stage two breast cancer.

It came just weeks before the disease took the national spotlight as actor Angelina Jolie revealed in the New York Times that she'd had a preventive double mastectomy because of a family history and a faulty gene.

On Thursday afternoon, O'Neil made her own announcement via email to her staff. The news spread quickly through social media.

"A couple of weeks ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am undergoing treatment at Moffitt, which will include surgery and, most likely, chemotherapy," O'Neil wrote. "My oncology team is tremendous and each member is dedicated to the latest research techniques. The team has assured me that I will survive, and we all know how precious each day of life is!"

O'Neil, 56, has a family history of breast cancer.

Her mother was diagnosed when she was the same age as O'Neil. She died two months later of unrelated health problems.

Her brother also survived colon cancer.

To honor her mother as well as staffers who had battled breast cancer, O'Neil has been active in Relay for Life walks and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. She said information learned from chairing those events now give her inspiration.

"I was surprised when I was told and was in shock for a while, but prior involvement in Making Strides made me realize that there is a huge network of supporters and the survival rate is impressively high," she told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday.

O'Neil said her treatment will involve a mastectomy in June or July. She is undergoing genetic testing and will likely undergo chemotherapy. Except for a couple of weeks after surgery or some time for chemotherapy, she expects to keep working.

"My reason for going public is to encourage others to decide to have a mammogram," she said.

O'Neil has chosen the Bee Gees' 1977 disco hit Stayin' Alive as the theme song for her fight.

"I believe and I choose happiness," she wrote. "I will fight like a girl and win!"

Pasco Clerk of Court goes public with breast cancer battle 05/24/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 24, 2013 9:15pm]
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