Five years later—so happy, healthy, and eternally grateful.

by Katie Sznewajs

I’ve been dreaming about this day for 1,826 days — ever since I found out I had breast cancer on June 24, 2016.

We were in New York City for the first time since my young family had moved away a few years prior. We were so excited to take our three girls to all of our favorite places; show them their old school, our apartment building, grab an absurd amount of cookies from Levain, then head to the beach to see our good friends we missed so much. We were sitting in the park eating Magnolia cupcakes when the radiologist called and confirmed my worst fears.

Thank goodness for sunglasses, because I sobbed harder in that park than I ever had before. And thankfully there are unique individuals all over NYC, so no one even looked my way when they heard me fall to pieces.

Visit from my babies after my bilateral mastetomy.

The next few weeks were a blur of doctor appointments, conversations with others who had gone through this journey before, and coming up with a game plan to battle my early stage, but aggressive, cancer.

I was staring down chemo, lots of surgeries, and an adjuvant drug that still makes me wince when I think about the side effects I endured. But with every step of the process, I tried to channel my favorite Peloton instructor, Cody Rigsby, who always says, “If Britney can make it through 2007, you can make it up this hill.” And make it up that hill I did.

A t-shirt with all of Cody Rigsby’s quotes that I NEED!

Fast forward five years and I’m still here. I am so damn grateful, I can’t stop smiling.

Yet I also can’t help but wonder, why did I make it? Why am I still here when so many others have lost their battle or are still fighting? I’ve taught myself over the years to stop asking questions and use my experience to do some good for everyone out there fighting this disease.

I’m always happy to talk to other newly diagnosed women who are scared sh*tless and show them that there is life on the other side, or I love popping into the BAMR Breasties Facebook page (created by the amazing Barbara Onello and Ruthann McGee) and help others who are currently in the fight.

I sound like an Oscar winner but I can’t begin to thank all the people who helped me during that year of treatment. I had childhood friends fly in for every chemo treatment; I had neighbors take my kids to/from school; my brothers and sisters-in-laws took my kids for overnights on those days when I couldn’t muster up the energy to get off the couch. So many delicious dinners were dropped on my porch from people I barely knew. Friends and family from all over sent cards and care packages that gave me a lift when I needed it most. Our parents flew in to take care of the kids and fold our laundry.

Another Mother Runner was a constant source of inspiration. AMR encouraged me to run my first half-marathon ever one year after chemo finished. And they hired me for a killer job when I was bald and in the thick of treatment.

And especially my husband, Dan, who listened to me at night when I let my guard down and showed him how scared I really was. He reassured me and told me everything was going to be okay when he had no idea if that was the case. I hope everyone who is going through tough times has a Dan by their side. I’m not sure how I would have done it without him.

Last chemo with Dan.

I guess the takeaway from the last five years is this: Even though it may seem small to you, any action you take to help others going through hard times means so much. Drop off a dinner, send them a text, write them a letter, or give them a quick call to tell them you are thinking of them. Take their kids for a playdate, water their flowers, or do a grocery run. I certainly remember everything that people did for us, and I am eternally grateful for that kindness.

For all of my fellow survivors and those currently fighting, keep on going. There is a beautiful life on the other side of this hill you are climbing.