Tag Archives: breast cancer

Here’s a Secret. I Don’t Want to Walk 60 Miles.

1 Sep

HELLO Readers!  I have missed you.  But apparently not enough to get me to post something in the last two weeks.  I joke, I joke.

I really can not tell you how much better I feel Minus Infection.  Being Minus Infection means Minus Nausea, Minus Headaches, Minus Constant Low-Grade Fever.  And now, FINALLY, I can blog about the Walk.  And not my surgeries. Although, looking back, those 9 fun-loving surgeries gave me a lot of food for thought, didn’t they? Alas, there will be more.  We will save that for another day.

We digress.  The walk.  My training.

Two days ago, Teammate Shannon had the perfectly glorious idea to walk 5 miles after we dropped the kiddos off at school.  What Shannon neglected to mention was the Extreme Heat Warning here in Phoenix. I thought I was going to pass out, and I am not lying.  9:30am, 5 miles, 100 degrees, and I, in my brilliance, opted for pants and a sleeved shirt.  And, of course, water was too much of a hassle to carry so I left it in the car.

Lesson learned.  So as Shannon walked at mach speed down down the Bridle Path, I ran through the sprinklers of the private lawns on Central Ave, and prayed that it would start snowing as a cosmic sign that yes, I can walk 60 miles.  It did not snow.

But I made it.  And the reality that I would be walking 60 miles hit me.  And it hit me hard.  And it said YOU MORON, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?

60 miles is the distance, literally, from Sunnyslope High School at Dunlap and Central to the Casa Grande Mall on the I-10.  In other words, I am walking halfway to Tucson.  Let me be clear about something – the most I have ever walked in one effort is 5 miles.  And that was two days ago with Shannon.  And now I’m going to take a jaunt down to Casa Grande? And take 3 days doing this?

Enter paralyzing self-doubt.

I shared this doubt with Shannon, who in her non-abrasive, read between the lines, gentle, yet direct way, reminded me that Hello Amiga, this walk is a sacrifice.  For me, the fundraising was easy, the organization is fun, Thriller Flash Mob? Downright divine.  The walking?? Eeek.  And therein lies my sacrifice.

Enter lightbulb above my head.

True Statement: I really do not want to walk 60 miles.  At all.  But I will because I  can.  Because I have the luxury (and it IS a luxury) of walking.  I will be walking while some husband is entertaining his wife while she gets chemo.  And while a mom gets diagnosed and struggles with how much to tell her kids. And because 39,520 women will die this year from breast cancer.  Let’s bold that up.  39,520 women will die this year from breast cancer.  And thanks to research, I’m not one of them.

So yeah, I’ll walk.  I’m going to whine about the heat and the time the training takes and the blisters.  And I will continue to ask why the Phoenix walk couldn’t be in February so the training months aren’t 100+ degrees.  But I’ll walk. Because life is in the sacrifices, and amen sisters, I’ve got my life.  Time for a small sacrifice.

Post Script: I wonder if Aline, friend and inspiration, even remembers telling me this.  Aline, do you?  We were sitting at LGO years ago, both embedded in the international adoption process at this time in our lives, and both very frustrated with the paperwork, the red tape, the time the process takes, etc.  And out of your mouth came this little jewel of a thought.  I have carried this with me mentally for years – every time things get hard, actually.  Thanks for being the kind of gal who utters genius quotes off the top of your head.

Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying.

11 Jul

A little clarification. I don’t have breast cancer.  I have the cancer gene.

In 1999, my sister, Jodi, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She was 37.  In 2005, our Dad was diagnosed with breast cancer (yes, you read that right, my dad).  The combination of these two was enough for the geneticists to say Come on in, pull up a seat, let’s chat.

So in 2006, we went to chat it up with the gene people.  My dad went first, and they found the BRCA2 mutation, the “breast cancer gene.”   Once my dad had the gene, the 4 kids needed to get tested.  No surprise, Jodi has it.  Jana and Andy do not.  I was the other lucky winner. The odds for us kids were 1 in 2 – what a statistically perfect family I have. 2 mutants, 2 non-mutants.  (Those of you that have met Andy are thinking hmmmmm.)

(FYI, my dad, brother and I went to the Virginia Piper Center in Scottsdale for the genetic testing, results and education process.  I can’t imagine a better place to go. These people know their stuff and convey it without the stuffiness so commonly associated with smart medical people.)

A little education – BRCA2 = BReast CAncer susceptibility gene 2. Everyone has these genes.  In normal circumstances, my understanding is that these genes are pretty helpful.  In abnormal circumstances, they are not helpful at all.  With the BRCA2 mutation, chances of breast cancer goes up to about 80%. Yikes. Chances of ovarian cancer increases dramatically, too.  And not that any cancer is exciting news, but ovarian cancer is one you really want to avoid.

I was 32 when the geneticists read my blood results and had a love-in with me.  The next step was to head to a breast surgeon and weigh your options.  My surgeon is Dr. VICTOR ZANNIS, and I will scream his name from the hilltops because he is good people.  He is GREAT people. I love him. In fact, I just decided to add him to the blogroll on my home page.

Dr. Zannis gave me two options: 1) wait and see, or 2) cut everything out.  He is not an unbiased man, and strongly favors Option 2.  As he told me, he spends his days with people who already have cancer, providing the best treatment plans he can. Can you imagine?  Day after day, telling people they have cancer.  Over and over again.  One of the many reasons I love Dr. Zannis is his compassion.  He is not bitter, desensitized or unapproachable.  I can not fathom the toll his job takes on him when he sincerely feels for every single patient he sees. I heart him.

But with me, Dr. Zannis got to say, “If you do nothing, you will probably get breast cancer. Let me operate, and I can prevent it.” Preventing cancer.  Big stuff.

To me, it sounded a lot like get busy living or get busy dying.

Get busy living I did. First was the hysterectomy. Adios ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes and cervix.  It’s been nice knowing you, but apparently, you don’t have much to offer me except a game of Russian Roulette with lousy odds.  With this came the decision of whether to freeze my eggs and all that jazz.  We had long before the discovery of my crap-ass genes decided to adopt, and by this time, we had already brought Xia home.  If we loved a child more, our hearts would explode. I took a pass on frozen eggs.

The hysterectomy was easy.  Wam, bam, thank you ma’am (now, hello, you are a man?? Not quite, but this topic might see the light of day). No one pretended the mastectomy would be easy.  And I’d seen it a few times before, and it wasn’t pretty.  So I waited.  And waited.  And hey, we had an awful lot on our plates so I waited some more.

While I waited, there were a lot of mammograms and ultrasounds.  That’s what you do when you have the BRCA2 mutation and sit around doing nothing. And voila, they found a little something called calcification – little calcium deposits in your breasts. Normally these little calcium clusters are nothing to lose sleep over…unless they’re irregular in shape.  If they’re irregular, start losing sleep.  In fact, just stop sleeping altogether. Irregular calcification + BRCA2 = I don’t care how full your plate is, move a side dish over because this calcification here is an entree. And it will take over your plate with a little something we call cancer – maybe it already has, maybe it will in a month, maybe it will in a year, but you are not likely to beat the bad gene odds. Game on.

Near miss, my friends.  An MRI showed that I was still ok, and I was cleared for the surgery that I now could not sign up for quickly enough.  They must have found this calcium spot on about the day it made an appearance. Call it karma, call it God, call it good freaking luck, but I got myself into an OR right before Christmas of 2009. Let’s getterdone.

I am not a survivor.  (Although, frankly, it’s an easier thing to say than this lengthy explanation for why I’ve had 4 surgeries since December of ’09).  No chemo, no radiation, no hair loss, and here’s the biggie, no threat of death – I am not a survivor.  I’m a lucky mofo is what I am.  I might start a new term. Under Cancer Survivor will be Cancer Lucky Mofo. With my smiling 3-Day-Walk Ambassador face.


One of the reasons I love this image is the spelling error. I wonder how many people have taken this to the tattoo parlor?  I like this almost as much as I like people who pick Chinese symbols thinking they mean “love, faith, believe,” but really translate to “I eat fish heads for lunch.”

Why I’m Walking 60-Freaking Miles.

13 Jun

A few months ago, I got a nagging feeling that I should be doing a little bit more in the fight against breast cancer.  Lip service is good, but breast cancer has touched a few too many people in my world.  The 3-Day walk was in the back of my mind, but I kept hoping something else would take its place and push it out.

3 Days??  60 miles??  Walking to my car from Nordstrom is an inconvenience for me.  And camping?? Come on now, people. I have hair extensions and botox – do I strike you as an all-pro camper?

Then, as luck would have it, my doctor said, “Holla, let’s carve you up some more.”  Okay, he didn’t say that.  He is a rather serious fellow and quite professional.  What he did say was that I was one of the lucky 10% of people where Reconstruction #1 didn’t hold so well.  So let’s go for #2.

And I was annoyed.  Really, really annoyed.  At no one, in particular, but annoyed all the same.  And I allowed myself to feel annoyed for the better part of a day, and I complained and whined, and said WAH, this surgery stuff is wearing me out. Wah wah wah.

The next morning, I woke up to my then-5 year old saying “Out of Bed, MAMA,” and I laughed. Not because waking up at 5am is all that funny, but because my patient husband and I have waited years for this little dragon to talk.  I thought, what if this next surgery was a “Dear God, I hope I live to hear my son wake me up another day” surgery, and not a “I think we can make you look a little better” surgery.

And that, my friends, is called perspective.

This is why I am walking 60 miles.  I do not have a burning desire to walk for 3 days, get blisters, and sleep in tents with port-a-potties as my morning fun.  I do, however, want to say thank you to those who have worked tirelessly in search of a cure.  I want to raise money for more research, I want to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives, family members and friends, and I want to do something for the bigger picture.

Want to follow along?  Please do.  My team is 5 members strong and hilarious.  Funniness to come.

Still Have to Start Training, Becca