Georgeanne Matava

Georgeanne Matava, of Seward, is shown with her son Brock, 22, in Armagh, on Oct. 5, 2017.

When Georgianne Matava was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer in 2011, the news barely fazed her. 

“I wasn’t even thinking about it,” she said.

Her nonchalance proved justified – for a while. The cancer had been caught so early that, after a couple radiation treatments and a surgery, she was able to go back to work at the Indiana County Courthouse feeling like she’d beaten cancer for good.

Just a couple years later, however, Matava’s doctors gave her more bad news. She had developed a different type of cancer in her other breast. She would have to go through more radiation treatments, more surgeries and more rounds of medications.

The next few weeks were “really bad,” the Seward resident recalled. 

“I cried and I screamed and I threw things. The anger was so horrible. I just couldn’t believe that God gave cancer to me once, and now he’s gonna give it to me twice. I was so angry. ... I did everything right. How could this happen to me twice?”

Matava said support from her network of friends and family got her through the hardest times: “My family, my good friends, even my ex-husband – they were all there for me. 

“That’s so important.”

After each radiation treatment, Matava’s family members – several of whom lived too far away to be there for her in person – got together and bought her household items and other gifts from a dollar store as tokens to let her know she was in their thoughts.

“It might sound silly, but that meant so much to me,” she said.

Matava also had kind words for the team of cancer specialists who treated her at Indiana Regional Medical Center – especially Dr. Gopala Ramineni and Dr. Ali Murad Tunio. 

She still sees them when she goes in for one of her twice-yearly checkups.

“He explained everything to me,” Matava said, referring to Ramineni. 

“He drew diagrams; he even made copies of everything for me. He was just so awesome.”

When Matava returned to work after her second 28-day round of radiation treatments, she got the green light from her bosses to run a small fundraiser for the Women’s Imaging Center at Indiana Regional Medical Center – anyone who donated a dollar could wear jeans to work on a certain day.

The participation rate overwhelmed her, she said: “I thought it was going to be a couple people, but everyone donated.”

Matava, who said she has been cancer-free since 2015, also runs road races in the Indiana to raise money for cancer-fighting initiatives – another big step forward from the time when, as she said, she “couldn’t even say the C-word.”

Asked what advice she has for women who might someday find themselves in her place, Matava stressed the importance of self-examinations.

“I should have done them. I didn’t,” she said.

Mammograms, too, are vital, Matava believes.

“Starting at 30, you should start getting mammograms,” she said. “I don’t even think it should be after 40.”

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.