By San Diego 3-Day Walker, Niki W.
I started doing the 3-Day in 2008 because a few of my fellow teacher friends invited me. I thought it was a perfect way to fundraise money towards breast cancer research, as I had lost a couple friends to this horrible disease. I also thought it would be a great way to spend time with these friends and to get exercise. I walked in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2019. I plan on walking in 2021 as well.
In the midst of everything else that 2020 brought my way, I found a very large lump in November, in my right breast.
I went in two days later, and my OBGYN said it felt too big to be cancer and not to worry about it. She scheduled some tests anyway for December but told me it was probably nothing. I cancelled my appointments and moved them to January because the December tests conflicted with our holiday plans, and I figured it didn’t matter since my doctor had said not to worry.
I finally went in for the tests on January 18 and had a mammogram, an ultrasound, and blood tests. My mammogram came out normal but they were able to see the lump on the ultrasound and my lymph nodes were very enlarged. They scheduled a biopsy for February 3. On February 5, I was walking with a friend on the beach when my OBGYN doctor called and said that I had an invasive carcinoma tumor 7X6 cm that had already spread to my lymph nodes.
I was in shock for several days and stopped sleeping and didn’t have an appetite. The next two weeks were a blur of appointments, scans, and more, as I found out that I needed to start chemo right away for six months, then surgery (double mastectomy) followed by radiation, reconstruction and hormone therapy for five-ten years.
Once I got my test results back and learned that I was only Stage 3 and the cancer had not yet moved to my organs, I was able to get my hope back! I am now continuously leaning on God each day and knowing that he is here with me through this.
My hair started falling out in early March. After I couldn’t take it anymore, four of my 3-Day friends arranged an outdoor haircut in my backyard so that I would have support during this traumatic time. I woke up that morning thinking that this would be the hardest day of my life, and my stomach was in knots all morning. However, when they arrived all wearing cowboy boots and hats and blasting country music (my favorite!), I couldn’t help but smile. Throughout the haircut, I was filled with gratitude for these amazing friends being with me during this really difficult time. They turned my sadness into joy, and it became one of the most special, intimate afternoons of my life.
My friends and family (and particularly my 3-Day team) have been amazing and have been here for every step along the way with cards, gifts, flowers, and meals. They even added my name to our 3-Day team logo so that we will now be walking for me as well as many other teachers from our school who have fought the battle and survived! I can’t wait to walk in November and be at the other side of this battle and able to spread my hope to others.
My message for others is to not give up hope and to rely on your faith, family, and friends to get you through this. You can’t do it alone and you will need their support! Embrace it and don’t reject it. There will be so many blessings if you allow other people in.