June 4, 2010 at 1:04 PM I got my #WhatTheHealthCare moment when the nurse on the other end of the phone told me the results were positive. I actually had to say the words because she couldn’t. I have cancer, I asked. Breast Cancer? Yes, she said. I was 35 and was in the best shape & health of my life, or so I thought. As it turns out I have the gene that carries breast cancer and it really wasn’t going to matter how many miles I could run or bike, my chances of developing breast cancer were high.
In December of 2009, I had set a goal to run a marathon or half marathon, complete a century ride or maybe even a triathlon each month for 2010 to prove that I could follow through with what I said I was going to do. I started the year off in a good place and finished a half marathon in January. In February, I had travel to Jacksonville, FL for work so I decided to take advantage and signed up to run in a half marathon that unbeknownst to me, was a breast cancer run. At the starting line, I thought about breast cancer and how it had effected my family and thought I was ‘safe’ since I was eating all the right things and exercising. I met a woman who was wearing a survivor shirt and I struck up a conversation with her. She went on to tell me her story and told me she had run through her treatment. Every day she ran. I was amazed! I didn’t know many cancer survivors and for that matter that you could survive cancer and be active through treatment or after treatment.
At that moment, I said to myself…if I ever have to go through cancer, I hope I can do the same. I’m so thankful for that woman who shared her story with me.
Four months after the race, I got that phone call and I found myself telling my doctors that I was going to run through my treatment, just like the woman I met in Florida. The first doctor said no, he would not support me. My second doctor (or team of doctors I should say) supported me. Two of them were runners and understood the importance of setting goals and exercise, even through treatment. As it turns out, staying active through treatment helped many of the side effects as well as helping me stay positive. At the end of 2010, I completed my goal of an event every month…plus one. I survived breast cancer.
Almost 7 years later, I still run and bike and try to live a healthy life doing the things I love. However, I also have a passion to help others. I volunteer for serval organizations to help spread awareness, lobby for legislation towards providing money for research and affordable care, serve as a patient advocate with researchers, facilitate support groups for those newly diagnosed and in the clinic where I was treated. I remember being so scared and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way. I want to help make a difference.
In my professional life, I work as a project manager in technology. My favorite part of my job is when my two worlds collide (professional & personal) and I get to work on projects that are changing how we look at the issues in our health care. I’m not sure what the fix is but I’m sure that with everyone sitting at the table together, bringing their skills that we can make a difference to help change how we approach solving the problems in our health care system.