Today marks 5 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. I know it seems like we all know someone who has had breast cancer (and thankfully, so many survivors!), but to a 34-year old woman who just found felt a scary, horrible feeling lump in her breast, hearing that the lump is malignant is a huge blow. Reading about great survival statistics doesn’t mean as much when the “breast cancer friends” you’ve made become crippled and suffer incredible pain before leaving this world and their small children behind.
So I am GRATEFUL! I’m grateful first, to Kathy Westerlund, for letting me join her 3-day team back in 2007. I did not know that I had a very personal reason to be walking for a cure for breast cancer (a personal reason growing inside of me, and 3 personal reasons waiting for me back home while I trained)…but walking that year, and seeing that sea of pink, made finding that lump THAT much easier. I was not afraid to go get it checked out…and I had some pink friends instantly waiting to help me once I was diagnosed. I will always be thanking God and my guardian angel for helping me find a lump, by myself that was still a Stage I lump.
I’m grateful for that sea of pink warriors that winds through our cities every year…grateful for the ones who walked before me (leading to better treatments, better awareness, better detection), for the ones that walked with me, for the ones who joined the ribbon in other cities (Julie and Joann), and for the ones that walk today..Wendy (thank you for all of the years, and the miles, you've spent with me in our quest to rid the world of breast cancer forever), Sherri, Kathy,Therese, Sakura, Laurie, Becky, Cindy...and so many others...training that first year through chemo is probably one thing that made my healing so successful. And on that walk, I met one of my best pink warrior buddies – Tammy. I am forever grateful to have met you on the streets of Plymouth, and grateful that you shared your story, your flag, and your spirit with me.
For my first 1.5 hour phone call with a survivor – Ellyn – I can’t even express how grateful I am for that time you gave me. I know I thought you were crazy when you said how wonderful everything was and would be…but you were so right! And for my best chemo friend ever – Missy – if only everyone had someone with whom they could laugh through chemotherapy! You bring a light wherever you go, and that plain and bland chemo room was never so bright as when you were there!
I am grateful to our friends and friends-of-friends – who with me have raised over $40,000 since 2007, and been part of teams that have raised over half a million dollars since we have started walking. Every year I wonder if we can do it…if we can still be a part of this quest – and every year you all say YES! Now with our group of dedicated supporters we are raising up a whole new generation of warriors – with your support I am able to herd a whole adorable bunch of 3-day Youth Corps through 3 days of inspiration and service.
Next…to my dearest, dearest family…I can’t even begin to tell you what you mean to me. I have the best sisters in the entire world, the greatest aunts and uncles and cousins, the sweetest nieces and nephews…many who entered this world in the midst of the craziest time for our family and brought us such joy in the middle of a bunch of turmoil (not even thinking of my breast cancer, but on all the other losses in between). I have a calm brother-in-law who read my results and went over them with me, a brother-in-law who moved across the country to raise his family closer to mine, two beautiful and loving sisters-in-laws and their families…I am blessed.
To my dear sweet children…I can’t even say how grateful I am for these 5 years with you. My silly 2nd grader – who became so serious so quickly – has morphed into a beautiful, hard-working, conscientious, confident, and yet again silly 7th grader, who can run like the wind. My spunky kindergartener – who has the very strongest emotions and gifts from all sides of the spectrum – is turning into a gorgeous and gifted 11 year old. My baby, who was just 2 years old when this all started – is now a big and strong 7 year old…just as sweet, and loving and kind as he is physical and all boy.
Most of all, I am so grateful for a husband who loved me bald, with a deformed chest, and menopausal, and who held our whole family so close that we came out the other side even better than before. Everyone should be so lucky to have a husband who stays up all night long researching, and emailing researchers, and becoming an honorary oncologist with all of his inquiries! Your mother is smiling down on you every minute of your life, my love.
No long epistle is complete without a request to take action…and again my friends, I will tell you that I AM still, in my gratefulness and hope, joining that 3-day pink ribbon. This year I will be again leading a Corps of children into 3+ days of service during the Michigan 3-day…hoping that they will be inspired to serve and to see that even if cancer touches your life, you can still spread hope and have great joy. (I will hopefully be able to bring my second daughter along this year, and show her that she can do something about the scary disease that affected her mom when she was just a kindergartener.) My husband will continue to walk and raise money in the hope that if any of his children have inherited my bum BRCA1 gene, we will have made a difference in breast cancer detection and treatment that will benefit them. As always, our gratefulness and thanks to you for standing with us for 5 straight years!