While battling three kinds of cancer, laughter is woman's best medicine

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A bucket list trip – that’s how a Bay Area woman celebrated a new round of grueling chemotherapy to fight cancer.  But why travel when she was not feeling well and fighting a disease that could kill her?  Patty Virgilio says Route 66 was the best kind of medicine.

Like many cancer patients, Patty’s fighting with all she's got to get through harsh cancer treatments: 60 rounds of chemo -- just to stay alive.

"Chemo is rough,” she admitted.  "The vomiting and the way I feel for days could really break your spirit."

So could having three types of cancers: First breast, then pancreatic, and finally thyroid.

"The pancreatic continues to be my irritant,” she complained.

Faced with brutal rounds of chemo again, Patty planned a bucket list trip, to drive the 2,451 miles of Route 66 through the heartland of America. Why?

“I've been bothering my sister for about 20 or 25 years,” she explained.  "We have history here nobody sees or hears about I wanted to bring that to myself and friends because you never know when time runs out."

Patty wanted to see the Big Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma, Route 66's Red Rocker in Fanning, Missouri, and the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona.  Her sister Jane did not.  "Aw, hot. Riding in a car for a week?"

But, Patty said, when the pancreatic cancer reached her neck, "my sister finally said ‘We’re doing it.’ It was like the best day of my life."

Patty strategically put together a team, Jean Gurucharri -- nurse and bookkeeper, Trudi Diamant -- travel Advisor, Julie Rothfeld -- the blogger, and Patti Tibbets -- the mom of the group.

"And my sister Jane; we didn't know what she was going to do. So, we had her do apparel,"  Patty chuckled.

For eight days, the Sixty Sistahs, as they called themselves, drove 300 miles a day. With each mile, new signs of hope. From the airline crew and passengers who wrote notes of inspiration for Patty on airline napkins, to the waitress who happened to have 'Don't give up' on her pants leg, to a restaurant owner who had lost a loved one.

Julie Rothfeld blogged about it all. "They brought over a Sharpie marker and asked if Patty would sign the outside of the restaurant. It was a poignant moment of people connecting over grief and over hope and inspiration. Carrying on."

You better believe the Sixty Sistahs had fun too: Sneaking beer in a dry county. 

"We got this flarp," Patty laughed, "which makes fart noises. So we all turned into 12-year-old boys."
Patty says there wasn't one day the Sistahs didn't bust a gut. And, when they made it to the end of Route 66, Pattty said, "It meant so much to me to put my toes in the water of the Pacific Ocean and say, ‘We did it.’ I learned I was stronger than I thought."

And, still to this day, Patty Virgilio is defying the medical odds. Why? "There wasn't a day I didn't laugh. And I think that was the best medicine for me."

If you 'd like to learn more about the Sixty Sistahs and their trip, you can visit their blog at


The FOX 13 Care Force is teaming up with the American Cancer Society to Make Strides Against Breast Cancer, and you can join in.  The upcoming Making Strides kickoff parties will help participants form teams for the walks and become successful leaders.

Here's what you need to know to make your reservation ahead of the kickoff parties:

-Pinellas kickoff: August 17, Vinoy Golf Club, 6 p.m.
Reservation: Makingstrideswalk.Org/pinellasfl

-Hillsborough kickoff: August 24, Straz Center, 6 p.m.
Reservation: Makingstrideswalk.Org/tampafl

-Pasco kickoff: August 24, Hilton Gardens Inn Suncoast Parkway, Lutz, 6 p.m.
Reservation: Makingstrideswalk.Org/pascofl

-Polk kickoff: August 29, Lakeland TV Studio B, 202 N. Massachusetts Ave., 6 p.m.
Reservation: Makingstrideswalk.Org/polkfl

The Making Strides walks take place in October, which is breast cancer awareness month. Join FOX 13's Linda Hurtado, Chris Cato, and Ken Suarez at participating events.

-Pinellas: Saturday, October 14 - Vinoy Park - Walk 9 a.m.

-Pasco: Saturday, October 14 - The Shops at Wiregrass - Walk 9 a.m.

-Polk: Saturday, October 14 - Polk -Lake Mirror - Walk 9 a.m.

-Hillsborough: Saturday, October 28 - Amalie Arena - Walk 9 a.m.


LINK: For more information about Making Strides events near you