Skip to Content

Josie Miller: Breast Cancer

Image of Josie Miller teaching yoga.

Staying Focused: Recovering from Breast Cancer

Josie Miller's annual mammogram wasn't scheduled until July, but on Easter Sunday in April 2021, the retired Williamsport pharmacist told her family, "Something doesn't feel right." Her instincts proved right.

Throughout the pandemic, Josie Miller maintained her busy yoga practice, teaching 14 streaming online classes a week. She recently had been swimming a lot, too, so she thought that might be why the muscles on her left side were so tender.

Josie called UPMC Magee-Womens Breast Health Center the day after Easter and was grateful to be get a mammogram and ultrasound quickly. The tests revealed a small cyst, which a biopsy confirmed as cancerous.

"I remember thinking, "Where do I go from here? Let's get this ball rolling," says Josie.

On May 9, 2021, UPMC Mage-Womens breast surgeon Susan A Branton, MD, operated on Josie to remove the tumor and a single lymph node. "All the surrounding tissue was good," says Josie. "But unfortunately, I had triple negative breast cancer. It's a particularly aggressive cancer, so Dr. Branton recommended we hit it hard."

A month later, Josie began 16 chemotherapy treatments — followed by 21 days of radiation at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Williamsport.

"Everyone was just amazing,"she says. "From diagnosis to surgery and through all my treatments, Dr. Branton, the nurses, and all the technicians knew just what to do and say. I totally trusted my care to them."

Now 65, Josie credits the practice of yoga with helping her stay focused and centered throughout her diagnosis and treatment.

"It helped me stay present and accept that I needed to do things in moderation," she says. "I learned to take things one day at time and not get wrapped up in anticipating what's ahead."

Another benefit of yoga is greater body self-awareness.

You become very attuned to your body," notes Josie. "I think that’s how I knew something wasn't right."

Throughout her treatment and recovery, Josie remained active.

"When I came home from my chemo sessions, I immediately walked around the neighborhood," she says. "I wanted to get my blood pumping. I think staying active helped me to avoid some of the side effects of chemo, like neuropathy."

Her advice to other women? “First and foremost, stay current with your mammograms.

"Especially if you have an aggressive cancer like mine, the earlier it's detected, the better your outcome," she says.

And for fellow breast cancer patients, Josie suggests reaching out and talking to someone who has gone through treatment.

"You can read all the literature in the world, but until you go through it, it’s not the same," she notes. "During my treatment, I had a reaction to a drug that made me very agitated and interfered with my sleep. Because I had worked as a pharmacist, I knew to talk to my doctors to address that."

"Talking with other patients can help you advocate for yourself and prepare for what you might experience — plus give you the confidence that you'll get through it," she adds. "I make it a point to be available to anyone who’s about to get treatment and wants to talk."

Today, Josie returns every three months to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Williamsport for blood work and every six months to the UPMC Magee-Womens Breast Health Center for a breast imaging. While she has cut back to teaching about six yoga classes each week, she's planning to start a home health job soon.

"I'm just not ready to stop," she says. "I want to keep making a difference."


Schedule your annual mammogram online.


Josie's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.