DETROIT – It's the time of year when people around the country count their blessings, and for one Ohio woman, her blessings include breast cancer.
Joyce McCain, 65, said having breast cancer and getting a special treatment for it ended up being a blessing in disguise.
McCain spent the summer fighting two types of cancer.
"I had to stop and think, you know, everything happens for a reason," McCain said.
In March, McCain was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. She had the tumor removed, and then her doctor suggested she look into a special type of radiation treatment at the Cleveland Clinic.
"When we end up seeing when we follow women who've had radiation to the left breast in particular, years down the road, is that they have a higher rate of cardiac complications," said Dr. Chirag Shah, a Cleveland Clinic radiation oncologist.
Experts said the technique involves a special breathing device to help ensure radiation is only delivered when the space between the breast and heart is greatest.
A computerized tomography scan is needed prior to treatment, and that's when doctors noticed something suspicious.
"He said, 'We saw something that didn't look right,'" McCain said. "He says, 'It appears as though you have a spot on your right kidney.'"
Just weeks after learning she had breast cancer, McCain was also diagnosed with kidney cancer.
After surgery to remove her kidney, McCain continued with radiation for breast cancer. She's now cancer-free and thankful for the technique that saved her heart and her life.
"I don't think that kidney cancer would have been spotted and that we'd be sitting here talking to you today," McCain said. "I say the Lord has blessed me and he's put some good doctors in my path. That's what I say."
McCain is still doing well and encourages all women to get mammograms.
Experts said heart-sparing radiation techniques for breast cancer can limit radiation exposure to the heart as much as 75 percent.