Welcome to the first installation of Marathon B4 Mastectomy! My name is Liza, and I am a BRCA+ woman who is preparing for my bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. In order to be in the best shape possible for this surgery, and to honor the physical/emotional/psychological journey ahead of me, I am training for a 1/2 Marathon prior to my surgery in July.
I’m no stranger to cancer. When I was just 29 years old, my daughter (a new 2-year old) was diagnosed with a very rare cancer called retinoblastoma. Soon after, my sister Mary was diagnosed with a very aggressive and progressive form of breast cancer. Her cancer was so advanced that I remembered imagining what life would be like without her — if my child’s cancer taught me anything, it was to never take anything for granted. My sister Mary, because of the early onset of her cancer at age 36, was encouraged to undergo genetic testing. Through a family tree, we realized just how many other family members had cancer, and so this was a very logical choice. Mary tested positive for BRCA, which then triggered my next sister to get tested. Sure enough, Grace also tested BRCA+. Then, me. Cut to the fast chase, I also found out I was BRCA positive.
My sister Mary did not have a choice but to have her breasts removed. My sister Grace decided to have a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy, in which they found pre-pre-cancerous cells (yes, the pre-pre is there on purpose). I underwent a year of baseline screening of both my breasts and ovaries during 2007-2008. Though my doctors encouraged me to my surgeries — both an oopherectomy and mastectomy — immediately, I asked to have one more chance to to have a biological child. I became pregnant in 2008 and then halted my screenings.
While I was pregnant, the doctors found a lump in my right breast. I had to undergo a fine needle aspiration (FNA) and wait for the results. In the meantime, thoughts of being diagnosed with cancer and facing the decision of whether or not to terminate my pregnancy or have chemo treatment while pregnant were terrifying to me. Thankfully (and I realize how blessed I was, as there are many women who have to make a real decision about this), the lump was found to be benign. I gave birth to a healthy baby in March 2009.
After giving birth to my son, my third child, I knew I had to continue my screenings. But, the lazier, more sleep deprived and exhausted version of me just couldn’t emotionally do it.
On Christmas day, while my family was sitting around the dining room table, I was on the couch with an ice pack on my breast. I was in pain … real pain. I was terrified — “is this a tumor?” At that point, I made a commitment that 2010 would be the Year of the Mastectomy.
I want to train for this 1/2 Marathon for a few reasons:
1. It’s been a while since I focused on my body. I had three kids in a span of 6 years, and it’s been about that long since I last engaged in real physical activity. I’m a good 40 lbs since my pre-babies days, and I’m eager to get my body back!
2. Being in the best shape possible will help me heal from my surgery better!
3. Running and training will be a great way to honor my daughter, sister and other family members who have battled cancer and won!
There are a number of people joining me in this journey and who are serving as a support system. Honestly, already, there have been 100 times when I’ve wanted to quit this idea of a 1/2 Marathon. And, there have been about 200 times when I’ve wanted to quit this idea of a mastectomy. But, I’m so thankful that I have really great people in my life!
So, here it is — I’m going to post every day. Nothing will be as long as this introductory one, of course. They will be quick ones to stay motivated or to ask how others are doing.
Team Marathon B4 Mastectomy, BE SURE TO REPORT IN!
and… we’re off!