Throughout October, we will be share She’s a Survivor stories: five #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.
Our final featured survivor for the month is Tracey Hecht, a 37-year-old from Cooper City, Fla. As if 2020 didn’t throw enough at us, Hecht also had to deal with a stage 3B triple negative breast cancer diagnosis that year—all while having two very young children at home (her son was just two at the time, and her daughter only nine months old.) After testing positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation a decade ago, Hecht knew she would have to have a preventative mastectomy, eventually. But she wanted to breastfeed her children first, and then go in for surgery.
Ironically, it was while pumping for her daughter in the spring of 2020 when Hecht spotted blood in her breast milk, which concerned her enough to go to the doctor at a time when many of us were fearful of leaving the house. Sure enough, Hecht had cancer. An aggressive treatment plan and surgeries followed, and now, Hecht is “seeing the light” at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. Here’s more.
Date of diagnosis: May 12, 2020
On navigating a cancer diagnosis during COVID: An asthmatic with two small children at home, Hecht was very cautious about her exposure to COVID. Which, of course, made her extra hesitant to go to the doctor. But her mom, Rona Eisen, a retired OB/GYN, convinced her to get checked out. “I also had a decrease in my milk supply, hot flashes, and a fever,” Hecht explains. “All of those symptoms were concerning enough to my mom as a doctor that she wanted me to go in right away even though I really wanted to put it off.”
After a biopsy, doctors gave her the grim news of her diagnosis and what was to follow: 16 weeks of intravenous chemo and six more months of oral chemo, plus 25 rounds of radiation, a double mastectomy, a lymphadenectomy on her left side, a full hysterectomy, and breast reconstruction. “Given my type of cancer, my oncologist is pretty aggressive in preventing recurrence. So I just deal with the side effects, which is better than dealing with cancer,” says Hecht.
On being sick with two littles at home: Hecht admits that one of the hardest parts of her battle was not being able to be as present as possible for her children. “I felt like I couldn’t be ‘mom’ for a really long time, and that I was missing out on milestones,” she says. “That was really tough on me mentally.”
Her mom moved in to help with the kids, and even though her husband still had to work fulltime, he could do so from home. “He’s hands-on anyway, but not having to deal with a commute meant he could do more with the kids,” Hecht says. “In one way, having cancer during COVID brought some silver linings.”
On her active pre-chemo routine: A voracious runner and certified RRCA coach, Hecht wanted to remain as active as possible throughout her treatment, so she vowed to run (or walk/run) her favorite 3.5-mile loop every morning before she went in for chemo—eventually logging some 500 miles in a year-and-a-half. And she had a little help from her friends to get her out there. “They’d run with me virtually, and send me photos of them for support,” she recalls. “It became a thing.”
On her next (big) steps: Though she is still recovering, Hecht is cancer-free and says she feels about “80 to 85 percent of the Tracey before.” So she’s challenged herself to complete the Miami Marathon this February. “I just want to be out there, and finish, even if I have to walk,” she explains, adding that she has the approval from her doctors, including her surgical oncologist, whom Hecht has inspired to run the half-marathon that day. “The thing is, cancer takes so much away from you, and running is what kept me going on many days,” she says. “I am seeing the light now, and I feel pretty good. So this marathon will be my big F-U to cancer.”
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