Why am I Running from Cancer?

Why am I Running from Cancer?. . . check out this post for an explanation

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Running Saved my Life


I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer 5 years ago. Running saved my life . . . .

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) doesn't usually present itself in the same way as other breast cancers. IBC grows in a sheet, not a mass like most other breast cancer and because of that is much harder to detect through mammography - it is usually found in later in the staging process - and has a much worse survival rate. According to data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, for women who were diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer between 1988 and 2001, the 5-year relative survival rate was about 40%. This compares with about 87% for all breast cancers combined. For more information on Inflammatory Breast Cancer visit IBC Research foundation.

So here is my story

I had my annual mammogram in May with nothing unusual identified, and my cancer diagnosis happened four months later in Sept. It still amazes me how fast this whole thing happened.

I woke up on July 30, 2004 and went to put my sports bra on for my morning run. As I was pulling it over my head (don't you just hate how tight those things are) I noticed that my right breast was swollen and slightly warm to the touch. When I got to work - I immediately called my Dr. and got in to see her that day. Both she and I thought that it was an infection and I was given 2 weeks of antibiotics. While my breast got slightly better it did not resolve itself and was put on a 2nd batch of antibiotics. I went back to the Dr and had a biopsy performed on the Friday before Labor Day. I received the diagnosis from the Dr. on the following Wednesday, Sept 8 and started chemo on the following Thursday Sept, 16, 2004.

My treatment involved:
  • 4 doses of Adriamycin / Cytoxan - every two weeks - side effect: nausea
  • Surgery - right side mastectomy - the cancer that was removed was 12 cm - which, even though it has been 5 years, still astonishes me. I find it hard to believe that I had a mammogram in May and this didn't show up - but that is the sneaky thing about IBC - since it grows in sheets, it is much more difficult to find. I also had lymph nodes removed during the mastectomy - 13 were taken out with 6 of them containing cancer.
  • 4 doses of Taxotere - every three weeks - side effect: blister type burns on feet, hands and inside of my mouth
  • Had a port surgically implanted in my chest - to make the weekly injections easier to handle
  • 28 Radiation sessions
  • Weekly chemo drug called Herceptin for 1 year

From start to finish - 16 months of treatment.

I am so thankful that I noticed my breast and took action that day in July. We were heading out of town for vacation at the end of that day - but I am so thankful that I took the time to see the Dr. that day. Who knows how much more it would have grown had I waited for any amount of time.

Cancer has made me so aware of my surroundings. That includes people and space. I try to make sure that I only do things that I want to do and are surrounded by people that I like. OK - that isn't always easy - but if I have a choice. Complainers and people who are not happy about anything drive me crazy. I am so appreciative of each and every day. I used to always think - if only I had this or that, or lost 5 lbs, or had new furniture, or ran faster or had a bigger house but now I am thankful for every day and realize that maybe . . . just maybe, this is as good as it gets, because things can change in an instance . . . Enjoy the day . . . enjoy your life . . . enjoy the moment . . . it might be the best day of your life.

12 comments:

  1. Wow, what a scary story, I've never heard of it! You poor baby, you really went through a lot. Thank god you found it when you did. Here's to many years of healthy breasts and miles of running ahead.

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  2. Flo - Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your visit.

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  3. Linda you are a great example of how quickly life can turn. Thank you so much for sharing your story. My mammograms have always been normal and we can be tricked into thinking that there can be nothing wrong. It's a good lesson to know you should act on anything unusual. I'm so glad your treatment is done and that you are running strong again...I have gotten on my pity party about my stress fracture and your story puts it all into perspective.

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  4. Wow that is an amazing story Linda. You are one of the lucky ones who took the time to focus on your health and paid attention to the warning signs. I cannot even imagine the process to kick the cancer. I am sure it gives you total new perspective on life.

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  5. wow, what a story! I am glad you are OK and was able to beat cancer! Your blog is very inspiring !

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  6. You are a smart lady to check with your dr right away. I am such a procrastinator when it comes to periodical exams. Thank you for sharing your story. I am way overdue for some tests. Maybe some of your wisdom will rub off on me.

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  7. Powerful. I want to say I know what you went through, but the truth is, I don’t. I have never experience it myself, but I’ve seen it firsthand (my Grammie survived breast cancer many years ago and recently a melanoma at the age of 90, but unfortunately my uncle did not survive his lung cancer). Cancer is such a terrible disease, and I am so happy that the moment you noticed something was different you had it checked out! Your story is exactly what women need to hear…don’t put things like that on hold…when in doubt check it out! You are an inspiration and I look forward to following your journey of “running from cancer” :)

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  8. Wow, what a story. That's wonderful that you have been able to run from cancer! Keep on running!

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  9. wow, this is an inspiring story.

    I'd love to chat with you about it more. I am also a cancer survivor (thyroid) and am working on a book about the Good Things We Get When We Get Cancer. I'm not saying all of cancer is great-yippee-I've got cancer!! Rather, my point is that many of us find we get good things out of our cancer experience that we would not have gotten otherwise.
    I think you know what I'm talking about, right?
    I am interviewing people who have had cancer about their experiences, and what good things came their way, and I'll be retelling those inspiring and interesting stories in my book.

    I hope you'll contact me via my blog or google. Thanks, and best wishes.
    Tara

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  10. You are incredibly inspirational! I'm an Oncology Nurse (in the Radiation side of things) and your story is very touching! I love seeing people cured and living out their everyday lives after diagnosis like the one you received! You go girl! Keep going strong!!! :0)

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  11. What a terrifying yet hopeful story! It's easy sometimes to fall into a 'it can't happen to me' mindset...until it happens. Here's to a very long lifetime filled with rich, fulfilling adventures!

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  12. Thanks for sharing. My Dad's battle with leukemia inspired me to stop procrastinating and start training for that marathon I always wanted to do. His battle was short and furious and today marks the one-year anniversary of his death. Life is precious and each moment is indeed a gift! Keep running!

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