On this very day last year, December 31, 2009, I sat at this same dining room table, typed on the same laptop, and made a promise to myself that “2010” would be “The Year of the Mastectomy”. Having already started a few different blogs, I sat down in my writing chair (aka the creaky dining room chair passed down from my parents’ first dining table in 1979) and tried to think of a clever and catchy title.  I went through dozens of “mastectomy” and “boob” type versions — some of them taken, most of them too corny — and landed on three words, Marathon Before Mastectomy. Too lazy to type it all down each time, and a big fan of quick texting, I changed the middle word to “B4” and gave birth to a living, breathing, bouncing baby blog that would save my sanity.


Little did I know that those 3 words would connect me to past friends, create new friends, and prepare me for one of the most difficult journeys of my life.


I’ve never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions. The last set that I remember making was back in my pre-teen years where I resolved to “never weigh more than 115 lbs” and “dance with a boy at the school dance this year” and “be nicer to my brothers and sisters” and, of course, to “always love the New Kids on the Block.” How do I remember those? They were my New Years Resolutions for years and years. And, just like the One Ring (Lord of the Rings), I held on to those resolutions like they were my Precious, and like to their masters, those resolutions made me crazy.


It was around my teenage years that I resolved never to make New Years Resolutions ever again.


To promise myself, back in December 2009, that this year would be the Year of the Mastectomy worried me. I was set on having my surgery in June 2010, just after the students left for the summer break and when my hectic schedule quieted down to a dull roar. I trained for the 1/2 marathon and focused on a race that would be just a few weeks before surgery. Of course, bumps hit the road and I had to reschedule, worried that all of my hard work and all of the promises I made on my blog would be broken.


I re-read many of the posts from earlier this year, and can still feel the excitement and anxiety on the screen leap into my gut. Some of it warms me; some of it still terrifies me. Just yesterday, my sister Mary — who battled breast cancer, aggressive chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, and then radiation — announced that she is planning on having her oopherectomy in the Summer of 2011. “I’m so scared,” she said. “I’m a total wimp, I’m weak, and I just don’t do well with all this surgery stuff.” Funny, fighting for your life and actively choosing to save it don’t sound very weak to me….


With her announcement, I realize that I, too, am not far behind.


So, what’s ahead for Marathon b4 Mastectomy in 2011? Lessons in recovery. Some of my most intimate thoughts have been during this recovery stage — some which I have posted, many which I have not. From as early as my pre-teen years, my body has been my enemy, long before I knew it actually had a genetic code that was trying to kill me. Funny, just as I hit a stage in my adult life where I emotionally embraced being a plus sized woman and loved my body for what it was, I found out I was BRCA+.


Mb4M will continue on its journey of recovery, acceptance, and seeking to find good in that which is imperfect. It will be about the struggle to achieve and the struggle to accept. It will be one part health, one part cancer, and one part health and cancer. But, at the heart of Mb4M will be friendship, honesty, thankfulness, and honoring those who push us all to be better, do better, and live better.


And, as always, it will be a journey of peace, love, and …..




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  1. Brenda Smith-Burke says:

    Dearest Liza,
    you are the poster child for Courage and Grace in the face of adversity…I wish you a blessed and peace-filled 2011…and if you do another marathon, I’ll come cheer you on, again! Love BSB (Julie’s Mom)

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