“Dear Cancer, you lose…”: Meet Survivor and First-Time 3-Dayer, Sylvia G.

If I had to write a letter to cancer it would read, “Dear Cancer, you lose…”

Sylvia just finished five and a half weeks of radiation after being diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after her 40th birthday. Though she initially was shocked and numbed by her diagnosis, she gathered her family and friends around her and got “gangsta with cancer” by refusing to let it stop her from living her life and celebrating every minute of it.

Now, after finishing her radiation, she says, “I am feeling strong and just getting settled into my new normal. The silver lining throughout this process has been to just really LIVE because you never know! And of course, if you’re busy living, you have less time to worry about the small (or big) stuff.”

She is on the other side of one part of her breast cancer journey, but that doesn’t mean the journey is over. After her diagnosis, Sylvia did research into all of the work that Susan G. Komen does to support survivors and those living with breast cancer. This, in turn, led her to the 3-Day. She signed up immediately for the New England 3-Day and will be driving in from her hometown of Pelham, New York to walk in her first-ever 3-Day at our New England 3-Day in September. She’s already fundraised more than $3,500 and is continuing to spread the word about the 3-Day and breast health. To say that breast cancer hasn’t slowed her down is an understatement! But don’t take it from us! Sylvia is here to share her story in her own words…

Tell us your breast cancer story…

I had just turned 40 when my world was turned upside down. I received a call I never expected.

“You have breast cancer.”

And just like that I was numb. The music stopped, and the party was over.

While still in shock, my family immediately took me to my mom’s breast surgeon. She had just finished treatment for stage 1 breast cancer the year before and was a total champion throughout it all, I might add. I was able to get positive preliminary information specific to my breast cancer which helped me start to feel the ground a bit.

We decided to go for several other opinions with breast surgeons and reconstruction surgeons. After choosing the team I felt most comfortable with, we opted for the nipple sparing double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. My diagnosis after surgery ended up being stage 2 breast cancer that had spread to one lymph node. I learned that I would have to have four rounds of chemo plus radiation.

In the days leading up to my first round of chemo, I kept reflecting on how blessed I am to live in a time of so many medical breakthroughs as well as options for treatment of breast cancer. This is when I realized that I needed to be part of helping to continue these advancements and fight to end breast cancer.

And how did this journey lead you to the 3-Day?

I had read online about Susan G. Komen and how much they have done for research, education, screening and treatment. I knew I had found the right match for my mission to bring us closer to a cure so that so many other people, including my children, will not have to suffer through this. I was gearing up to get gangsta with cancer!

And you have! You’ve been very successful with your fundraising efforts!

I immediately started my fundraising by following all the tips on the 3-Day website. Posting on Facebook, personally emailing all my family and friends, remembering to always send thank you emails as well as follow up emails and telling people about corporate matching gifts. At the end of the day, I really am so blessed to have generous and caring people in my life, some of who also have been impacted by this disease, and I am forever grateful for their support.

Though I have had success in fundraising there does come a point that you have to get creative to be able to keep getting donations outside of just family and friends. One way is to go through all your contacts and see who has a business or works for a company that can partner up with you to create a fundraiser. This in turn allows you to use their resources and reach a larger audience to support your cause.

So far, I am very proud of how much I’ve been able to raise, and I am really looking forward to meeting other survivors, hearing their stories of fearlessness, as well as bonding with my team. I can only imagine that feeling of accomplishment after finishing the 3-Day walk!

What are some of your other 3-Day goals?

I want to reach as many people as possible and remind them of the importance of getting regular mammograms because early detection of breast cancer can make the disease easier to treat. I will also continue to stay focused on my health and positivity so that I can be my best self.

I still have a long way to go but since becoming a survivor I don’t think I can ever justify sweating the small stuff.

I have been dealt a couple bad hands but at the end I plan on winning the game!

Coach Heather’s Mom is One in a Million. She’s Also One in Eight.

18341774_10211397027432652_288704117220380159_n

As we approach Mother’s Day, we have a special guest post from Coach Heather, sharing her own family’s breast cancer story. This year, her mom will be celebrating Mother’s Day for the first time as a breast cancer survivor, and Coach Heather is sharing their journey together to remind us all the ways breast cancer can affect any one of us. We all think our moms are one in a million, but when they also become 1 in 8, everything changes.

 

Truly, never did I think that the 1 in 8 would be my mom. There has been zero history of breast cancer in our family. But sure enough, on the afternoon of February 18, 2019, she received the call with me by her side. I didn’t even have to ask…because I already knew. I could tell by the expression on her face. She had breast cancer.

The call came five days after her annual mammogram. In those five days she had two mammograms, an ultrasound, and a biopsy. They weren’t messing around…bam, bam, bam. This was all taking place in the hospital where she spent 37 years of her career and she had her “people” all around her.

Even after the call, we were in shock. Wait, what? Breast cancer? She had had no symptoms, no lumps, nothing that would ever concern her or lead her to believe she was at risk. She immediately started looking to blame this on something that she had done. Maybe she drank too much wine, maybe she consumed too much caffeine. She needed an explanation.

25550325_10213299846321935_5726556089702006051_n

Now, after some of the dust has settled, she is far more educated and realized that regardless of whether there were symptoms or not, she WAS at risk merely because she was aging, and because she was a woman. Sometimes, there is no explanation or logic.

The day after she heard her diagnosis, she left for a scheduled vacation. While I had the opportunity for the news to sink in and the chance to be angry, sad, and feel the roller coaster of emotions, she had to remain calm and cool because she didn’t want to put a damper on the vacation for those she was with. At least until she came home.

One week later we had a 3-hour appointment at the Cancer Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Macomb. We were so nervous, knowing that once this train left the station, it was rolling and there was no going back to life “before cancer.”

So, like we do in most situations, we walked through those doors optimistic, joking, and ready to tackle whatever came next. We met a wonderful surgeon who really laid it all out there. My mom had invasive ductile carcinoma, Stage 1, with a tumor smaller than a pea. A lumpectomy was discussed and the treatment plan that the surgeon, oncologist, and radiation oncologist laid out was far better than we originally thought.  The surgeon said “We caught this early. You are not going to die from breast cancer!”

Cue the BIG sigh of relief! But Mom still had so much ahead of her.

17992336_10211163014942486_8491549199954252411_n

The next week we walked back into Henry Ford for what Mom kept calling “three procedures.” We arrived at 8:30am for her 12:30pm lumpectomy. Prior to the actual lumpectomy, she had wires inserted to act as a roadmap for the surgeon, took a quick trip to nuclear medicine where she had dye injected into her nipple to further direct the surgeon to the location of the tumor, and then finally went into surgery. It went as well as it could go, and we were on our way back home by 3pm.  Mom felt great by 5:00pm, ready to eat Chinese food, and only needed two Aleve per day for the next few days. She was very lucky, and we knew that.

Outside of the breast cancer diagnosis, things have gone as well as they can for someone dealing with this life changing news and journey. About a week after the lumpectomy, Mom’s biopsy results came back with clean margins and no trace in the lymph nodes. Great news! Oncology testing results showed that chemo would not be necessary. So, a month of radiation and then five years of medication would be coming next.

heather

My mom is all about positivity but still knows that her life will never be the same. The days of reading breast cancer books, really “hearing” commercials related to breast cancer, checking labels for soy, and frowning on the red wine she used to love, are the new normal now. She doesn’t want to do anything to contribute to the development of another estrogen-induced tumor.

To say she is and was scared is an understatement. But much good has come of this as well. She is far more concerned about taking care of herself in regards what she consumes, her exercise regimen, and health in general from this point forward. She is also determined to share her story in hopes that her friends will understand the risks, re-evaluate their daily behavior, and (most importantly!) get their annual mammogram. As we always hear, and as Mom has learned, early detection is key.

I am part of a group of 9 women who have been friends since high school and in recent years, as we rapidly approach 50, I often wondered who would be the 1 in 8 to get breast cancer. Knowing the statistic that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, I was prepared that surely it would be at least 1 of us. I just never thought it would be my mom. But breast cancer can affect any and all of us. Now she’s not just one in a million. She’s also 1 in 8, and she is never going to quit.

Learn from 3-Dayer Catherine Stoch: Commit to the 3-Day in 2019

“To make a difference for someone else. To dispel the myths. For research. For screening. For treatment. To educate people about what Komen does for women, and men. That’s why I walk.”

Why do you walk? Everyone has a reason. This year, we are asking you to find your reason, and commit to the 3-Day. Commit to walking 60 miles in the fight against breast cancer. Commit to joining 3-Dayers like Catherine Stoch, one of our Twin Cities 3-Day survivor speakers in 2018. Commit. You won’t regret it!

Take it from Catherine. She has been walking for a decade, two of those years as a breast cancer survivor, and she’s not stopping anytime soon. In fact, she’s already signed up to join us again on the Twin Cities 3-Day in 2019!

Tell us about your 2018 journey…

Last year was full of a lot of things, like getting body parts removed to prevent cancer’s spread, lots of recovery, and reconstruction. And during ALL of this, I was completely, 100% supported by an incredible team of friends, family, medical professionals, good insurance coverage and my husband who has been by my side every step. And I know not every woman’s story is like this. That’s why I walk.

The net proceeds raised by the Susan G. Komen 3-Day help Susan G. Komen® build a world free of breast cancer through research, community, care and action. The funds raised have helped Komen‘s mission to save lives from breast cancer, by investing more than $956 million in breakthrough research and more than $2.1 billion to support people and communities most at risk through programs to provide access to screening, treatment assistance, patient navigation and education. How could I NOT walk?

What would you say to someone who is nervous about joining the 3-Day?

I was VERY nervous too, at first. Walking 60 miles and raising $2,300 is a big commitment, but as a friend of mine—who joined me as a first-time walker in 2018 shared, “You pushed me to do more than I thought I could.” I think that is what I have learned over the years of walking this—that you can do more than you think.

What are your top training tips for first-time 3-Dayers?

  1. FOLLOW the training regimen and take it seriously. If you are a runner, you may think, “Yah, I run.” But training your feet for waking, especially a long walk, is different. And another tip: buy your shoes ½ size larger than you usually wear. This was critically important to keeping my feet in much better shape. And…don’t wear NEW shoes on the walk. Your feet will suffer.
  2. Drink more water than you think you should. Over five walks, I’ve seen people be way too casual about it, and run into serious problems. Dehydration is COMPLETELY preventable on the 3-Day.
  3. Walk in all kinds of weather. You never know. I trained in heat, humidity, rain, and because I live in Minnesota, I did train in snow. Then you will be ready for whatever weather comes your way. It’s a long walk, and thorough preparation will get you ready both mentally and physically for the elements.

Komen has a Bold Goal to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50% in the U.S. by 2026. Why is this goal so important?

On a larger scale, women’s overall health is important to me, and all my life, women’s health has been under fire, with too much interference, and not for the better. Fewer women dying from breast cancer means more healthier women globally. And there’s still such a cultural stigma about breasts, just saying the word in 2018 still makes too many people squirm. By continuing to call out breast cancer deaths raises awareness that women (and men) still DIE from this. Totally unnecessary.

What are some of your personal goals for the New Year?

Be mindful of my good health and do my best to not just take up air space on the planet, but use my time, energy and talents well. A hero of mine is John Muir, who was exceptionally passionate about the natural world stated, in part: “Most people are on the world, not in it.” I want to remain very IN, and given I have a new job in the health care sector, it’s incredibly exciting for me to utilize my job-related skills as a grant writer to promote healthy living for ALL!

 

What are YOUR goals for the New Year? Have you already committed to walking the 3-Day in 2019? Tell us your story in the comments!