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On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink: Johanna’s Story

So many mother runners are already aware of breast cancer, including our own Katie, that it seems almost like overkill to devote October to becoming even more aware. Yet breast cancer remains the second leading killer of women and there are more than 3.1 million U.S women who have been or are currently being treated for it. Most of the women in the Tribe have been affected by breast cancer, as a patient or as a sister, daughter, mother, or friend. 

We’d love it if you’d wear pink Wednesdays this month (yes, a few of us at Team AMR are Mean Girls fans). We’ll be reminding you on Tuesdays because, honestly, who can’t use a reminder? When you wear your pink tomorrow, take a picture of yourself and join us over on Facebook. We have easy-to-use profile picture overlays to show your support for BAMRs with breast cancer, increase awareness, and drive conversations. If you like to DIY your own overlays, click here.

We’re also sharing stories about having breast cancer from mother runners, like this one from Johanna, who lives in Edinburg, PA, and has three kids: Emily 13, Pacey 11, and Ryan 9.

Johanna crossing the first of many finish lines before her diagnosis.

My cancer was diagnosed in November of 2015. I turned 40 that October and had my first mammogram. They called me back and, after another mammogram, a sonogram, and a biopsy, discovered the cancer.

I had too many first thoughts and none at all. Within a week, I was in multiple doctor appointments, had another biopsy, and even more appointments. I was scared but trying to keep a positive attitude for the kids and family. I was worried about the kids and feeling very alone. No one in my close circles wanted to hear about my fears; they all just wanted to tell me everything was fine and to not be so negative.

I had just completed the AMR marathon training group and the Marine Corp. marathon. I was in my resting time so running was only in the back of my mind. Honestly, from that first week when they told me I needed to come back for a biopsy through Thanksgiving, I didn’t have any time to even think about running. I had no time due to appointments, trying to research, and figure out what I wanted to have done.

I was diagnosed with DCIS. The doctor that I originally saw recommended just a lumpectomy with radiation. Mastectomy was also an option with no further treatment. After lots of research, soul searching, and more opinions, I ultimately choose to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I had no further treatment.

I had surgery in January 2016, when I had a mastectomy and tissue expanders put in. My exchange surgery was in January 2017, which is when the tissue expanders were taken out and silicone implants were put in. In short, 2016 sucked! The tissue expanders are like bricks. Hard and very uncomfortable things that are placed under your pec muscle. Surgery screwed with all my upper body muscles and made everything uncomfortable, even running.

I am feeling wonderful now. Most days. I still have lingering muscle issues in my back, around the shoulder blades. This May, I started strength training, which I had never done before! Also, I am running a half this weekend that I have been training for. I completed two other halfs since my diagnosis, with one in 2016 because I needed to feel “normal.” I didn’t train; I was just was having a bad day and needed part of the old me back. So I just signed up two weeks before the race. Then I ran/walked it by myself and felt great (mentally,not great physically.) I did the same kind of thing in June, just because I felt sort of lost not training for anything and missed the rush of a race.

Johanna (and two of her kiddos) finishing the race after diagnosis.

I think friends who want to support women with breast cancer should know that they need to be real. Don’t be afraid to upset your friend because those emotions are right there anyway. Talk to us about your life. It was nice to have friends come to me with their every day problems and treat me like they always had.

Don’t ask if anything is needed — but rather bring a movie over during recovery and watch it with them or stop by and say “let’s go for a walk.” Take them dinner. If you are very close, talk about the reconstruction process and how they are feeling with all the decisions, like what type of surgery they had. All the reconstruction options are sooooooo overwhelming, it is not even funny and don’t be afraid to tell them what you would do!

I don’t have my mom because she passed several years ago, so I still struggle with wishing I had a close female to speak to about the reconstruction options, how everything turned out, and how I feel about it all.

On Wednesdays We Wear Pink

AMR is creating a Cancer to 5K program, set to launch in 2018. Please include your information below to be added to an email list, and we will contact you in the future!

6 responses to “On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink: Johanna’s Story

  1. Hi Johanna, wow, so many similarities. I had just turned 40 in Oct. 2013, went in for my first mammogram, and boom, Stage III breast cancer. My mom had just died of ovarian cancer a few months prior. Rocky time for sure. The expanders were so ALIEN. Running helped me through it all, and I’m glad it helped you, too. I started a walking support group for survivors of women’s cancers, but I’d love to start a running group, too, or somehow get connected with AMR’s Cancer to 5k launch. Very awesome!! Sending you a hug and fist bump and lots of positive thoughts!!!

  2. Love all you BAMRs! Support from a group like this got me through so many difficult times! And those bricks I had in…my dr referred to them as my shelves! And with a tribe of women this strong-we can get through anything!

  3. okay I know it really isn’t funny, but your story about the expanders reminds me of a friend who went through a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. every time we saw each other I was feeling up her chest. sometimes we got funny looks but it made us laugh! thanks for sharing!

  4. Wonderful post, Johanna! Thank you so much for sharing your story & for the advice on how to be supportive & helpful. Awesome job on that new strength training & knowing how to find yourself out in those miles!!!

  5. WTG Johanna!!! I’m a fellow double mastectomy cancer survivor. My timeline is similar (my exchange surgery was also in Jan 2017). So glad you are starting to feel more like yourself!

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