I’m 37. I’m a wife, a runner, a cyclist, an overall fitness enthusiast, and a project manager. But now I have a much bigger title – Breast Cancer Survivor.
In 2009, I was stuck. I was married, I had a good job and yet I didn’t feel fulfilled. So I decided to take up running. I ran my first marathon in October of 2009 and I had an awesome time so I immediately signed up for a ½ marathon for the next month. It was that ½ marathon that I decided 2010 was going to be my year. I was turning 35 and I was going to be unstuck. It was time for me to do something.
My plan was to sign up for an event for each month – whether it be full, ½ or century ride. In February of 2010 I was on track and ran a ½ marathon in Jacksonville, FL called "26.2 with Donna" (that's me, to the right, at the race). This marathon is known as the marathon to finish breast cancer. I was there by myself and ended up meeting a wonderful couple from Alabama and it turns out the wife was a breast cancer survivor. I didn’t really know what to say. Everyone in my family who had breast cancer didn’t survive or had a really rough time going through treatment. I asked her how she got through it. How did she survive? She said she ran – her and her husband ran every day through treatment. I was completely amazed. As she told me this, I began to think of myself – thankful for my health and ability to run and be active. I also thought if I ever have to go through cancer, I want to run – I hope I can run. If she could do it, I could too.
We arrived at the starting line and I was going through my usual routine – checking shoe laces, going to the bathroom, but I couldn't stop thinking about that survivor. I also thought about the small lump in my left breast that almost a year before my doctor said it was nothing. If 2010 was going to be my year, I need to get this checked and make sure it's nothing serious. A few months went by and I finally found a doctor that I was comfortable with and who was willing to ‘go through the motions’ to see what the lump was. I was 35. Too young for a mammogram, too young for cancer, right? Well, not really. I had a ultrasound, mammogram and then a biopsy.
On June 4th, the voice on the other end of the phone apologized but said it was cancer. All those years where everyone told me I wasn’t at risk – my gut was telling me that I was at risk. Both grandmother’s had breast cancer – one diagnosed at 28 the other at 60; my aunt, 28; and my cousin, 30. Unfortunately I lost my grandmother and aunt before I really got to know them - they died at 34. The doctors I had before told me I wasn’t at risk because the cancer was on my father’s side. It turns out after having genetic testing I’m BRCA 2 positive which means I carry the breast cancer gene.
I had my double mastectomy on July 26th and recovered quite well – thanks to my enthusiasm for staying in shape and eating properly. I began chemo on September 2nd and finished on November 29th. I couldn’t let cancer take me or stop me from what I love doing best. If that woman at the race in February hadn’t told me her story, well I don’t know that I would have gone into with a positive attitude. I went on to complete 2010 with reaching my goal of 12 events – actually 13 if you count the breast cancer. I accomplished my goal and I survived. I didn’t let cancer take me away.