Peggy Pico: Reporter Covered Her Own Cancer Story

Watch a video of Peggy Pico sharing her experiences at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

In the often unforgiving world of television news, most reporters would have dreaded facing November 14, 2011. That was the first time KPBS Health and Science reporter Peggy Pico went on air without her signature chestnut mane.

She was bald. And it was beautiful.

Taking her story public

“I sort of felt like Buddha in a dress,” cracked Pico on her Facebook page. Humor has helped Pico through various crises as a reporter and as a registered nurse. Now it would have to sustain her through a very public battle with breast cancer.

“I shared my journey because I wanted to make it less daunting for others,” said Pico, who produced a four-part series about breast cancer while being treated.

Diagnosis and treatment

Pico during cancer treatments

Pico during cancer treatment

Diagnosed in May 2011, she jumped instantly into reporter mode, researching the latest approaches, studies and treatments. UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center’s Comprehensive Breast Health Center—and its physicians, including Drs. Anne Wallace, Sarah Blair and Teresa Helsten—provided her the foundation upon which to build.

“They were able to tell me exactly what kind of tumor I had and which kind of treatment would work best, specifically for me. "They gave me tools to live fully while being treated for cancer. People are living with cancer.”

"Personal trainer for your mind"

In addition to her “phenomenal” clinical team, Pico turned to psychiatrist, Dr. Wayne Bardwell, for emotional support. “I tell people it’s like having a personal trainer for your mind,” said Pico. Among other things, Bardwell and his team at Patient and Family Support Service keep patients actively engaged in their treatment, focused and moving forward.

For Pico, “forward” was the only option. She followed the debut of her bald head with the February on-air debut of her short, sassy, silver shag.

Pico with Dr. Helsten

Pico with Dr. Teresa Helsten

“My brown hair turned white due to the chemo,” she documented on Facebook. “This is my hipster look. I think I’ll change my name to Pico Bond, as in 007!”

And why not? After all, now, both Bond and Pico have looked death in the face, and laughed.

This article by Kim Edwards originally appeared in Cancer Care magazine.

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