If we’ve had a conversation, either online or in real life, you probably know breast cancer awareness is an important part of who I am. But, what you may not know is why. It started 20 years ago when I was six-years-old and busy terrorizing my little brother, marrying GI Joe to Barbie and learning I’d rather run around on a muddy soccer field than dance in a tutu. Meanwhile, my mom was battling the healthcare system to provide her with proper care. At her young age of only 34 and with much less breast cancer awareness than we have today, doctor after doctor told her the pain she was feeling in her breast was from too much caffeine and nothing to worry about.
Not only was she young, but pain is not often associated with traditional breast cancer cases. But in her true fashion, my mother followed her instinct and luckily since she worked in a hospital was able to find the right doctor to provide her with the appropriate tests. It didn’t take long for her to learn she did in fact have breast cancer, but thanks to her persistence it was early stage and treatable. She underwent surgery for a single mastectomy and beat the odds not only against cancer but didn’t have to go through chemo or radiation. In fact, the whole process seemed so quick and routine that I barely remember her fight against the disease, but it has continued to have an impact on my life.
Growing up my family has been great about raising our awareness of the disease, openly answering any questions that my brother or I had, and encouraging us to get involved in the fight against cancer. In 2008 and 2009, my mom and I walked side-by-side in the 3-day 60 mile Breast Cancer walk. During our 3-day experiences, we raised approximately $10,000, walked hundreds of miles, cried, laughed, remembered the taken, celebrated the lucky, shared our story, listened to others, built lasting friendships and vowed to continue striving to find a cure. Additionally my family and friends have supported me while I ran numerous races for a cure, raised money by selling hot dogs and even sold half the stuff in my dad’s house to raise funds for a cure.
After nearly 20 years of celebrating my mom’s victory over breast cancer, we found out in December 2011 that it had returned and once again we would be a part of the fight. Like the first time, my mom found the cancer early and while the months of surgeries, doctor visits and tears were tough, we are lucky to celebrate that she is now a two-time survivor and stronger than ever. I strongly believe her positive attitude, dedication to the cause and strong support system were a big part of her quick recovery. I am thankful that so many people (including my family, friends and coworkers) continue to put time, money and their hearts into finding a cure so one day stories like mine will be a part of history.
With my mom’s recent fight against cancer, she tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene mutation. This discovery has been emotional, educational and life-changing. Check back soon to hear more about genetics testing, my mom’s results and why I decided to get tested too.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey with me. I will never be able to explain how important the cards, encouraging words, support, hugs, story sharing and even tears have meant. I am so lucky to have you all in my life. xoxo