DALLAS — Every day on the second floor of the Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern in Dallas, someone learns life will change.
"One day at a time," said Karen Permetti. "One treatment at a time."
Permetti is the spokeswoman for Lewisville ISD, but she's also a wife and mother of two children.
Her visit to the center for a third round of chemotherapy offers an odd serenity.
The nurses and their hands are very familiar.
"It's been easier," Permetti said. "People are not strangers. You have relationships with them, and you feel you are in good hands."
She isn't scared. The same staff also helped one of her family members deal with cancer — her mother.
"You have these people who cared for your mom, and they are caring for me," she said. "I know them; I know them by name."
Permetti was diagnosed last June with colorectal cancer... two weeks after her mother had a double mastectomy.
Dianne Hastings was diagnosed with breast cancer on December 31, 2011. Both cancers came close to Stage IV, the most serious level.
Now, both mom and daughter are leaning on each other as they cope with cancer.
"Why couldn't it have been just a second cancer basically for me?" asked Dianne Hastings. "I have two grandsons, and they need their mom."
Permetti was there for her mom. Now, mom is by her side.
"It was very difficult the first time to walk back in here, because it brought back all of the memories for me when I was so very sick," Hastings conceded. "But Karen is my daughter, and I will be here."
Mom has been there on days when her own fight has been too much. She never complained, and always sacrificed.
"At times, she fed me when I couldn't feed myself... even though she was off the heels of radiation," Permetti said. "She never talks of how tired she was. She would just hold my hand when I needed to."
It's a careful balancing act. Cancer in the same family is a challenge. Their shared journey was one they didn't count on, but it strengthened their bond.
"I couldn't have done this without her; and because of her, I have been able to face cancer with my head held high," Permetti said.
For Hastings, helping her daughter has been an unexpected gift.
"It's a blessing for me to hear that I basically paved the way for her, for her treatment to be easier for her," she said.
The mom and daughter cancers are unrelated, and both women have different oncologists. But the goal remains the same.
"My ultimate goal is for both of us to be healed from this cancer and move on and be a positive impact for our families and others," Hastings said.
Time away with mom would be fun, too.
"I hope my mom and I can take a big, nice girl's trip," said Permetti. "Just take a vacation from it all... away from cancer."
Permetti and her mom have a very good prognosis.
Both women plan to advocate for more cancer research dollars. Hastings was in Austin Tuesday meeting with state legislators to discuss possible avenues to increase awareness and funding.