Seems only fitting that on this day, April 21st, the anniversary of my diagnosis with breast cancer, that I launch my 2021 Relay for Life goal. 11 years ago today, I was diagnosed with Stage3 ILC or invasive lobular carcinoma, a hormone positive breast cancer. Back then I spent over a year in cancer camp. Five months of chemo infusions prior to surgery to give cancer a swift kick where it hurts. It did shrink the 5cm tumor in my left breast down to less than 1. My reward for graduating chemo was surgery to remove my breasts. Although there was no cancer in my right breast, I chose a double or bilateral mastectomy. I figured my girls had always gone everywhere together; Flopsy and Mopsy would go to the Kingdom of Lost Breasts together too. After recovering from surgery I had seven weeks of radiation, earning the title ‘Glow Girl.’ A few years later came ‘Flopsy and Mopsy the Sequel’ with reconstructive surgery, making new boobies with my own tummy skin and fat. Cancer camp is filled with losses and lessons, glitches and gore. It clears your calendar, becomes a full time job while depleting your bank account, and demands ninja warrior endurance. You have many decisions to make, but only two choices when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment: will it break you or make you? I do my best to turn this test into my testimony. My blessings still far outweigh my troubles.
It was joyful to have eight years of what I thought was ‘cancer free’ only to find out in late 2018 the original breast cancer had spread (metastasized) to my bones. I was stable on meds for almost another two years, until finding out that treatment had failed. The cancer had spread to my stomach lining and colon. I’ve been on a new line of treatment since Fall of 2020 that appears to be working. Any way you look at it, given the median survival for metastatic breast cancer is 3 years, I’m blessed to still be here, despite the challenges and heartache in what is considered a terminal diagnosis. There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, only a series of challenging treatments to try and slow progression as long as they can. When one fails, they try another and so on. I will be on some form of chemo the rest of my life.
I’ve Relayed since that first summer of 2010 in chemo, for myself and all those families affected by the heartbreak of cancer. I lost my Mom Nancy to kidney cancer; she was only 46. A lifelong musician playing in clubs and bars, her cancer was most likely a result of continued exposure to second hand smoke despite being a non-smoker. There have been so many others whose loss from cancer was so painful, including my son’s high school sweetheart Cara, my beloved high school teacher Gabe Escalera, and countless ‘Sisters’ and dear friends like Mother Harriet Lewis.
I’ve got a whole new reason to Relay this year, as two close family members were diagnosed with cancer; one with breast cancer, the other with prostate cancer. Thankfully for each it was caught early and their individual prognoses are good. It is heartbreaking that cancer continues to affect my family; I pray a legion of angels and blessings will arrive for each of them, just as they did for me.
I know there are many worthwhile charities you can support; this one is very personal to me for the help I received. It’s why I continue to pay it forward with your help. My goal this year is to raise $2,021 for the American Cancer Society. Please help if you can. I’m a witness to the invaluable research, patient support and education, patient services and housing, ACS provides and Relay helps fund. The 24hr hotline at 1-800-227-2345 is always there to offer support and help to anyone in need.
Thank you for all those who have supported me in Relay year after year, these eleven years! Thank you for your continued love and prayers and support for me and my family. It means so much and is deeply appreciated.