In August 2015 I set a goal to run my first 10K in Puerto Rico. It was the CHALLENGE of the year for me because I had never run long distances. Considering myself a determined and resilient woman, I began training. As a thriving runner, I sat down with my planner in January 2016 and scheduled a race every month to keep me focused on my running goals. The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on May 8, 2016, was one of them. Little did I know what a profound impact scheduling this race would have on my life today.
February 14, 2016 - I was in Puerto Rico running a 5K race and celebrating Valentine’s Day with my husband. That afternoon as I showered, I felt a lump in my breast and did not know what to think of it. I did not want to alarm my family nor did I want to panic. The next day I shared my concerns with my husband and made a doctor's appointment right away. Within the same week, I met with my doctor and the following week went for a mammogram and ultrasound. The mammogram results were negative. However, since the lump was palpable, a biopsy needed to be scheduled. I had planned to fly to Puerto Rico to run my first 10K on February 28th and with my doctor’s blessing and encouragement I was able to do so. I had just had a yearly physical and mammogram in July, I had been eating healthy, and I felt in the BEST physical condition ever. I felt happy, excited, and in my mind, there was no way something could be wrong because my life felt GREAT. I felt I had, by all measures, everything I could have ever wanted and then some.
I ran the race still thinking everything would be okay. To my surprise and disbelief, three days later the biopsy results were in, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer - Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. On that day, time stopped for a few minutes and the moment was embedded in my memory. My life stopped for a brief moment as the news took my breath away. I was somewhat in shock not because I felt immune from it, but because I had never felt a lump before. I felt healthy and in the best physical condition ever. Very quickly I learned cancer does not give you notice before intruding your body.
Having to prepare myself for a new shift in my life was quite overwhelming. I underwent a lumpectomy surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Losing my hair was a profound moment for me because it was the first time I realized that life would be different. It was the outpouring support of my family and friends that helped me get through my breast cancer journey. There is a saying that when someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves you does, too. From the moment I was diagnosed my family and friends held my hand, and when I was weak and encountered the darkness of fighting cancer, they were stronger. My family and friends became my rock and my safe place.
Surprisingly, when I thought I had learned the way to live life, in a blink cancer changed my path. I learned how to embrace my life within the limits of cancer and figure out how to feel happy whenever possible because tomorrow is not a promise. During my journey, I started noticing how amazing small, ordinary moments can be. I also began to see the love and humor in almost every situation. Breast cancer changed the way I looked at things and gave me a new lens in the way I view life now. Cancer forced me to see how amazingly strong I am both physically and emotionally. It was a big reminder of how important my family and friends are as well as how much they love me. Cancer made me slow down (even if it was just a little bit) and accept the fact that it is okay to let others take care of me. It reminded me to be thankful and appreciate this utterly amazing life I have.
In October of 2016, I completed treatment and started taking Tamoxifen. Since then I have embraced my “new normal” by living life the way I always imagined. I have chosen to thrive and not just survive. My journey became a pivotal moment in my life when I found the woman I was always meant to become. I emerged from this battle as a warrior, loving mother and wife, sister, daughter and now an advocate compelled to give back by devoting my time to spread courage and strength to women fighting cancer.