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.
This month, we’ll share stories of BAMRs with breast cancer on Tuesdays. Why Tuesdays? Because on Wednesdays, we’d like you to wear pink on your run to show your support and start conversations. And, yes, a few of us at Team AMR are Mean Girls fans.
Today, we’re sharing Staci’s story.
My cancer was discovered when I noticed an indentation on the side of my right breast in early April 2017 while getting undressed for a shower. After examining the indent, I felt the lump. I followed-up immediately with my primary care doctor and was referred for a 3D mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy of the lump. It was an an agonizing 3 weeks of waiting. My official diagnosis came on April 25.
During those first weeks after diagnosis, I was filled with anxiety. We had so many unanswered questions. I tried to run during those first days and sometimes my anxiety would take over and there were some very hard runs. As time passed, I decided the only way to get through this was to get tough and fight. I knew I could not let fear or cancer win and knew running was something that had always helped me emotionally and mentally as well as physically.
I live in a very flat area of North Dakota. It’s so flat that I use an overpass along my regular running route for my hill training runs. I decided that the overpass would be my bump in the road. I would beat cancer like I beat that hill every time I ran up. I kept running and kept running up my hill. To this day when I run up that overpass, I tell cancer over and over to $#@# off. That it will not win because I am stronger. I usually shed some tears when I get to the top of that overpass.
As I got closer to starting chemo, I had so many emotions. I was so scared of the unknown and how chemo would affect me. I wanted to keep my life as normal as I could and continue to enjoy the things in my life that make me happy. My running has always been very important to me. It makes me feel happy and strong.
After being diagnosed there was a period of scans, biopsies, and surgeries followed by waiting for the results before I could move forward with treatment plans. Some weeks I was healing and unable to run — but I noticed the weeks I could run I felt better. I could handle what was being thrown at me better. A cancer diagnosis takes so much from a person that I didn't want it to take running away too.
My first post-chemo run came six days after my first chemo treatment. I ran on our treadmill at home. After I was done I felt like I could take on anything and win. I felt normal and I knew I was going to be ok.
Still, it hasn't been easy. Because the side effects of chemo accumulate as treatment progresses, I am slower, more easily fatigued and my runs have gotten harder. But studies show that running and exercise are so beneficial for you during chemo because they can help lessen the side effects and help your body recover after you are done with treatments. I try to remember that when it is hard to get out the door.
I have received five chemo treatments and have three more to go. Chemo has gone quite a bit better than I had imagined. I feel good and my side effects have been minimal. I believe that is due to the shape I was in prior to starting chemo thanks to running and that I have been able to continue to exercise through my treatments.
My running has lessened some since I started chemo — partly due to fatigue but also due to going back to work and getting into the craziness of back-to-school with our 8th grade son. Sometimes it is more of a run/walk now but I am still moving!
It's been important to me to continue to live as normally as I can and getting out of the house to spend time with my friends helps. I have found some friends are hesitant to reach out because they don't want to bother me. Don't be hesitant to reach out, I’d advise anyone with a friend going through treatment. You are not bothering them but letting them know you care.
Also, as person who is very independent, I have found it can be very hard to accept help. I want to do it all myself. Sometimes it better to just show up and tell your friend how you are going to help rather than asking. They don't have the opportunity to say no then.
Are you ready to wear pink on your run tomorrow? Take a picture of yourself and join us over on Facebook. We’ll have easy-to-use profile picture overlays to show your support for BAMRs like Staci, increase awareness, and drive conversations. If you like to DIY your own overlays, click here.