The Four Words That Changed My Life

By Beth B.

Beth B. at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®

I never get tired of telling my story. Four words. 

It all started on October 26, 2011 —10 days after my 30th high school reunion. I went for my annual exam. Ten minutes into the visit, my gynecologist said, “You have a lump.” Four words. Thirty minutes later, I was having a mammogram a month before my regularly scheduled one and an ultrasound. An hour later, the technician took me into a room and put me on the phone with my doctor, who said, “We found something suspicious.” Four words. They told me to find a surgeon and schedule a biopsy as soon as possible. Six days later, I had a biopsy, and on November 4, 2011, my world turned upside down. I was 48 years old when I heard “You have breast cancer.” Four words.  

Part of my story involves how and where I received my diagnosis. I am a lobbyist for a financial services company, and the day after my biopsy, I traveled to Washington, D.C., on a business trip. As every cancer patient knows, the thing that you crave the most is normalcy. While I didn’t yet know that I was a cancer patient, I craved normalcy. The thought of sitting at home and waiting for the results was unbearable to me. I was in a meeting room with about 75 people when my cellphone started ringing, and I could see it was the surgeon’s office. I made it out to the lobby where the diagnosis was delivered. It was as if all the air had left the building. All I wanted to do was to get back to my room to call my Mom. I held it together until she picked up the phone, and I burst into tears. I felt like a child who falls off her bike and doesn’t cry until she gets home and runs straight into her mother’s arms. 

I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 2B. I had a lumpectomy a week before Thanksgiving in 2011. My margins were not clean, and I had node involvement. I chose to have a single mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, and I have never regretted that decision. The surgery was four days before Christmas. I had eight rounds of chemo. I lost all of my hair and started reconstruction during chemo. I finished treatment on May 2, 2012 and had reconstructive surgery later that summer with the final surgery that fall. I am currently taking Letrozole after five years of Tamoxifen. I still have neuropathy in my feet, but it is gone from my hands. Now my four words are “You are a survivor.” 

I have met the most incredible people on this journey. I am proud to be a survivor, and I feel blessed every day. My fellow survivor thrivers are the bravest people I have ever met. They give me hope and courage every day. I hit the 9-year survivorship mark last November. Some days, it feels like yesterday, and other days, it feels like a lifetime ago. Some days, I scratch and claw my way through, but most days I just feel incredibly lucky. 

We must continue to fund the research that will eventually eradicate this monster. Together we can, and will, lift the veil on this horrendous disease. Together, we are stronger than cancer. Life changes in an instant. I really have no other words. I will NEVER stop telling my story and I will NEVER stop fighting for a cure. 

Here are my final four words to you — GO LIVE YOUR LIFE! 

The 3-Day Victory Shirt Goes Skydiving

As Kathryn D. was preparing for her fifth Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, she heard the words no sister wants to hear: your brother has cancer. In an effort to do something special with her brother Matthew, she took to the skies and jumped out of an airplane with him. “He’s an intensive care nurse, and while six years younger than me, he has always been an inspiration. I would never have let myself get tossed out of an airplane if it wasn’t for him.” Kathryn details her experience with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® and being on Team Ecccentricia, why she wore her 3-Day victory shirt on the dive and how jumping out of a plane is not as scary as cancer. 

Kathryn skydiving in her 3-Day Victory T-shirt

What is your connection to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day? 

I first learned about the 3-Day in 2008 when my sister participated. Then my best friend, my cousin Cheryl died of breast cancer in 2011. It got personal. In 2012, my sister and I did the 3-Day for Cheryl. Since then, I’ve been proud to participate in 2017, 2018 and 2019 in Seattle. San Diego 2021 will be my fifth walk. 

What is team Ecccentricia? 

Ecccentricia is the name of a character from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Among her other attributes, she also had three breasts. My sister chose the name for her first walk. Her T-shirt read ‟However many you have, we’ll walk for ’em.” She hasn’t been able to participate since 2012, but I’ve kept the name alive. There have been as many as six of us over the years, but this year Ecccentricia is a team of one. 

Why did you go skydiving? 

I went skydiving because my brother was recently diagnosed with cancer. He will almost certainly live. He has gone skydiving once before and has wanted to go again ever since. He said if I’d try it, he’d come with me. I wanted to give him this gift. I wanted to find out if there was anything more terrifying than being told your best beloved has cancer. Answer: If there is, freefall isn’t it. Freefall ended after 60 seconds. Cancer is a lifetime. 

Kathryn’s brother, Matthew, on their skydiving adventure

Why did you choose to wear your 3-Day Victory shirt on this adventure? 

I wore the Victory shirt because it reminds me that I can do hard things. I confronted real terror being pushed out of that airplane. When I landed, I was happy to be wearing that shirt. I can conquer difficulty in my life. I can overcome fear. I can make a difference. 

What are you most looking forward to for this year’s event? 

What I’m most looking forward to is the silliest thing ever! I’m looking forward to the Cupid Shuffle with a lot of happy, sweating, exhausted people! Even on day 3 we can still dance! 

Kathryn D. will be walking the 2021 Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in San Diego this November. Have you ever worn your 3-Day victory shirt on an adventure? We want to know! Leave a picture and your story in the comments section. 

Cate E. knows first-hand you need PERSEVERANCE take on a challenge like the 3-Day

Continuing our “Word of the Year” series, this month Cate E. shares her experience, on the 3-Day and in life, of PERSEVERANCE. Cate first joined the 3-Day in 2009, but this year brings new resonance and new meaning for her as she faces her own breast cancer battle. 

Tell me about your 3-Day experience. 

I did my first walk in 2009 in Washington, D.C. and proceeded to walk the next two years in D.C. Then I switched to crew. I crewed in D.C. when the 3-Day was in that city, then switched to Philadelphia and then to New England, doing both the Philly event and New England event in 2019. I’ve served on several crew: gear & tent, grab & go, and sweep, but most often pit stop 3. I’ve been a crew captain multiple times over the years. 

What is your 2021 word of the year?   

Perseverance. 

Why is that your word of the year? 

I have had the honor of watching women and men on the 3-Day in various stages of survivorship. Whether they are a survivor or the family/friend of a survivor, these individuals are all still affected by the disease. Seeing their perseverance has given me the strength to fight my own battle with breast cancer. 

Why do you participate in the 3-Day? 

In January of 2009, I saw a commercial for the 3-Day. I sat on my couch and got teary over what I was seeing. I told my husband I wanted to go to a Get Started Meeting to learn about the 3-Day and sign up. At that point in my life, I felt so blessed and knew it was time to give back. I started participating in the 3-Day to honor my Grandmother Marion and my Great Aunt Eileen, who both died of breast cancer. In 2021 I will be participating to celebrate and honor myself as well. 

What does the 3-Day family mean to you? 

On the 3-Day, I have gotten to know some of the most thoughtful and generous people I have ever met. The friendships and bonds created on event are just as strong as those of blood relation (sometimes stronger). I have a core group of women who I have been on event with since the start. They were the ones I reached out to when I was first diagnosed. Their strength, support, and compassion, accompanied by some hilarity and hijinks, helped me cope with those first few days after hearing the word “cancer.” Their guidance and understanding are far beyond anything outside of our 3-Day bubble. I’m so lucky to have them in my life. 

How does your word of the year connect to the 3-Day? 

I think everyone on the 3-Day shows perseverance. From the walkers who are faced with blisters, heat, strains, sprains, and training, to the crew members who are setting up, breaking down, dealing with location challenges and supporting the walkers, to the staff who are juggling the demands of the towns, route challenges, the crews and the walkers—everyone on event shows a perseverance to succeed. This is doubly so for those who are also fighting cancer during the event. The perseverance of each and every individual working toward a world without breast cancer is what the 3-Day is all about. 

If you could share a message with the Pink Bubble, what would it be? 

Meeting you, talking to you, hearing about your journey and watching you succeed in your own way has been a blessing to me for the last 12 years. Hearing your words of encouragement, of thanks, of love, compassion and understanding have shown me that there are amazing people out there in the world. The knowledge that with a few keystrokes I could reach out and be surrounded by our big Pink Bubble and knowing that I can feel your love and be lifted by your support has given me courage and strength to fight my own battle. Thank you to each and every one of you who put yourselves out there year after year to find a cure. 

We want to know: What does PERSEVERANCE mean to you? Check back next month for the next blog post in our “Word of the Year” series.