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 Race for the Cure (a race to support breast cancer research) 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.