Breast Cancer and Running: Katie’s Story

running after breast cancer
Katie and her husband Dan after the Boulder Bolder in 2017. "My first race post-diagnosis. Much slower than 2016, but I did it! "

During this week right before our Motherlode of Miles weekend that benefits the Donna Foundation, we are profiling four #motherrunners whose lives have been changed by breast cancer; hopefully the perspective and ideas they share will benefit others who are going through similar situations.

We've already introduced you to HeidiKeli and Meghan. Today, we're excited to reintroduce you to Katie Sznewajs, AMR's Director of Marketing. Katie, who also chronicled her running journey after breast cancer, is the mom to three girls (ages 9, 8, and 6) and one dog (Charlie, an 18 month-old very naughty, but lovable Chocolate Lab)

These posts are in their own words; they will also be guests on the AMR podcast at the end of this week.

Date of Diagnosis: June 27th, 2016;  age 38

Type of Breast Cancer: Her2+, Stage 1, Ductal Carcinoma in 1 breast, beginning of DCIS in 2nd breast, Her2+ is a very aggressive type of Breast Cancer but thankfully a drug named Herceptin (and a few more since then) were created and saved the lives of women with this type of BC. I found the lump at the age of 38 (THANK GOD) because I had just been to my OBGYN for a checkup two months prior and it wasn't there. That's how fast this type of cancer grows.

Running through it: Some background first: I had to do 6 rounds of chemo with 5 drugs per treatment, then I was on Herceptin for a year and then Noratnib for another year once the Herceptin was done. I had 5 or 6 surgeries during that 2.5 year period.

I started treatment about 2 weeks after diagnosis. When I was diagnosed, I continued to run until I just didn't have the energy to do it after chemo. My girls were 6, 5 and 3 at the time and whatever energy I had left, I wanted to save it for them.

I remember so vividly the day when I went for my first run after chemo ended, which was also about 6 weeks after my double mastectomy + reconstruction. It was a cold but beautiful sunny bluebird day in Denver and I ran around Washington Park. I stopped about halfway through the run and sobbed on a park bench. I think it was the first time I really sat down and thought about what my body had been through and how god damn thankful I was to be alive and able to run again.

running after breast cancer
"The day I shaved my head. I was prepared to go by myself but my husband insisted on coming with me and bringing the girls. It still brings me to tears thinking about that day - not because I lost my hair because of his unwavering support throughout the journey. He always knew the right thing to say and do to make me feel better."

How breast cancer changed her running perspective: It's changed everything. I try not to sweat the small stuff and I really try to appreciate this second chance at life.

What's more, I don't take for granted the fact that since that fateful day in 2016. I've run three half-marathons, five 10Ks and I'm about to run my first full marathon in Chicago on October 12. If anything it's given me the courage to go for it, despite my age (42!) and all of the changes my body has been through.

Best thing she did for herself during treatment:: I have the most amazing friends and family. A friend or family member came out to stay with us during every chemo treatment and surgery.

Instead of feeling guilty about not being able to run, I took the opportunity to watch more movies with my kids and spend time with my support system that meant everything to me.

Best thing others did for her during treatment:t: After someone said to my husband, "That's terrible that Katie got breast cancer," his response was: "We feel so lucky that not only did we find breast cancer, but we beat it in the same year." And at first I was a little taken aback but it's been my mantra since then.

I always try to focus on the positive and remember what the other outcome could have been (and frankly could still be if this comes back) and have really tried to put breast cancer behind me. I'll never forget that time in my life, but I don't let it define the person that I am now or who I will be in 20, 30, 40 years.

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