Friday, March 25, 2011

"Just" Breast Cancer

I'm sensing a theme in my blogging pattern lately. Someone says something that rubs me the wrong way, and I then blog my way to proving them wrong. This week is no different. This week's statement is courtesy of someone I asked for a donation:

"Well, if it's JUST for breast cancer, then I'm going to have to say no."

Just? JUST?!

I'm going to skip over the statistics that we've all heard about the number of people who die every year from breast cancer. I'm going to skip over the number of people who have survived breast cancer thanks to early detection and treatment. Instead, I'm going to tell you about my friend, Allison.

That's Allison and I at the Race For A Cure in Nashville this past October. That was also one week before she had a 4 pound tumor taken off of her uterus. Here's her story:

In March of 2010, Allison learned that she had a very large fibroid tumor attached to her uterus. She had a great team of doctors that quickly ruled out the tumor being cancerous. She was placed on Lupron Depot shots for 6 months in hopes of shrinking the tumor before the doctors could even consider doing surgery to remove it. They weren't sure that they would be able to remove only the tumor even after these shots. A hysterectomy at age 26 is what Allison was potentially facing. On top of this, she had to have a catheter inserted because of the position of the tumor.

After an MRI in July 2010, it was determined that the shots had been successful in keeping the tumor from growing, but they had failed to shrink it at all. Allison was sent to a fertility specialist as a last ditch effort to find a miracle to shrink the tumor. The specialist decided to keep her on the shots, but also put her on drug called Femara.

Femara is commonly used in post-menopausal breast cancer patients in place of Tamoxifen.

After being on Femara for a few weeks, Allison started feeling better. Her organs that had been compromised by the tumor were functioning better. She was even able to have the catheter removed. On October 15, she underwent surgery to remove what had become a 4 pound tumor, and that was AFTER it had shrunk from the medication. The surgeon was able to remove only the tumor, keeping Allison from needing a hysterectomy at such a young age.

Medications like Femara don't just miraculously appear on the market. They have to be researched, developed, and tested. The money to fund that research, development and testing doesn't appear out of thin air either.

Before you say no to a donation that "just" goes to breast cancer, think about Allison. Because someone said yes, she is able to continue with a normal life and, hopefully one day, she'll give me a niece or nephew. I like the way Aunt Abbie sounds.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Taking Things Personally

My dad called me last week. He calls me every time there's "some sort of weather", as he would put it. Having just pulled in the driveway from being at the gym, all I wanted was to get inside and get a shower. When he said my stepmother had some news, I could tell from his tone of voice that she hadn't won the lottery.

"They found something on my last mammogram. The biopsy results came back. I have DCIS."

My stepmother has breast cancer.

The words 'early' and 'non-invasive' were mentioned, and while I know that those are both good terms considering what we're talking about, I can't escape the fact that my stepmother, one of my best, closest friends for the past 16 years, has breast cancer.

For the most part, both she & I have received a tremendous outpouring of love & support. Prayers, good vibes, thoughts, offers to talk and listen have tumbled in. And yet, the one comment that continually sticks out to me is one from someone I've never met who said, "Well now your fight against breast cancer is personal."

Really? Just now? It wasn't personal before? Because I wasn't aware of that fact.

Maybe I've been remiss in sharing my story, so please allow me to give you the Reader's Digest version:

A little over 3 years ago, I watched my friend & coworker, Patty, start to turn in to someone I no longer recognized. She began coming in to work later and later, made glaring mistakes on reports, and would get easily confused. After calling her husband one day when we found her sleeping in her office, Patty's doctors discovered that the breast cancer they had thought she had been clear of for 5 years had metastasized to her brain. She began suffering seizures, went through test after test after test, and even had brain surgery to remove the mass. In the end, none of it worked. She passed away the week before Christmas that year, leaving behind 3 children and a husband. She was 47.

My godmother, Aunt Joan, has beat breast cancer twice. The last time was about a year and a half ago. She had two types in the same breast. After undergoing a mastectomy, her options for radiation were limited. She was very close to having already received the maximum amount allowed for a lifetime. Through much research, and refusing to take no for an answer, she is now cancer free. But she's not the same woman she used to be. She gets very tired very easily. She doesn't enjoy traveling like she used to. I won't go so far as to say that she's given up, but she's certainly giving in. Some days, I think I'm more bothered by that than if she would have passed away.

My fight against breast cancer has been personal from Day One.

But let's say that I didn't know anyone with breast cancer. Let's say that I was fortunate enough to not have lost someone to breast cancer. Would that make my efforts any less important or any less personal that someone else? Would that mean that I was participating in this for reasons with less meaning than others?

Don't allow someone else to tell you that your fight isn't personal. If you have the passion to fight breast cancer and the drive to participate in something like The 3 Day, I'm proud to stand next to you, no matter what your reasons are.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

If I Can Do It...

I was on the phone with my dad last night, telling him about being picked to be a Komen 3 Day Ambassador. And while he thought it was great & he's very proud of me, he asked me a very good question: What will you say when asked about The 3 Day?

The biggest point I came up with was this: If I can do it, you can do it.

When I was trying to decide whether or not to register for my first 3 Day in January of 2010, I had what I would come to learn were a lot of misconceptions about the type of person who walks The 3 Day. I mean, it's 60 miles. That's intense! And thus, it takes an intense person... a person who competes in triathalons, runs marathons, and all other kinds of -thons. It's full of people who live on health bars that taste like cardboard... skinny, super healthy, I can count your six pack abs kind of people. I felt like passing out at 3 miles, and then again when I reached 7. 10 miles? 18 in one day?! Forget it. That's not something I can do.

I was very wrong.

Not long after we left opening ceremonies, walkers were detouring in to Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks. I saw one lady pull a bag of Cheetos out of her backpack. We chowed down on candy in the sweep vans (I highly recommend Nerds!) Some walkers made it to the first pit stop and then hopped in a sweep van to lunch. Apple pie and brownies were served at camp! My 2x tshirt wearing self was in very good company in the crowd of 1800+ walkers.

I've made a conscious effort since I signed up for last year's 3 Day to be healthier. I joined a gym, I eat healthier, I drink water instead of soda. But I will still tear up some fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes, red velvet cake... you get the picture. You're not gonna see me on a beach in a bikini playing volleyball. I'll be sitting on a lounge chair, drinking a pina colada.

None of that makes me any less intense than the type of person I originally thought walked The 3 Day. I'm just intense in a different way. I am no less passionate about my goal of walking 60 miles and raising as much money as possible for Komen because I'm not an uber-athlete.

I know that as a first-timer, it all seems like a very daunting mountain to climb. $2300 is a lot of money to raise. 60 miles is a long way to walk. I'll let you in on a secret: I never believed I could do it. It wasn't until that last penny was in my 3 Day account that I believed I could raise the money. It wasn't until I set foot in to camp at the end of Day 1 after walking every single step that I believed I could do it. I crossed the finish line with the help of some vans & buses, and that's okay.

If you have the passion to help, to be part of the cause and the cure, that's all you need. Yes, you will get overwhelmed. Yes, you will wonder if you've lost your mind... and so will other people. But if that voice is inside you telling you that you need to do this, listen to it. Sign up for The 3 Day. You can walk next to me and we'll compare the different methods there are to fry chicken.

For more information on The 3 Day, please visit: The3Day.Org

And if you're one of my Blockhead/New Kid family members, I highly encourage you to join or donate to Team Betty in one of the cities listed below:
San Diego

If you don't see a 3 Day near you listed, form your own Team Betty!