The Biggest Endurance Event of My Life!
By Carol Housaman
On September 3, 2003 I had a mammogram and discovered I probably had breast cancer. On that day, my whole world was turned upside down. Knees knocking, I shakily climbed down from the table, got dressed and walked out of the Radiology office in a dream state. The mammogram revealed a very suspicious mass in my left breast which caused the radiologist some concern. He told me to go see a surgeon immediately. Luckily, I picked out one of the best in the area, who helped me get through the next few months of surgeries, office visits and treatment options. A biopsy was performed by him and the results confirmed my worst fear. I had breast cancer!
What on earth was I going to do? During the summer months, I had discovered a small lump in my left breast, which I ignored for a short time. Of course the lump didn’t disappear like I had wished, so I felt it was necessary to get checked out. I wasn’t worried. I was in the best shape possible. I was healthy, fit, ate all the right foods, didn’t smoke, and had just finished my third Ironman Triathlon competition. Life could not have been any better. I felt the lump was really nothing at all, so I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I had a full and busy life. I was looking forward to some great races and fun family activities in the fall.
Well, things never really go as planned. I thought that after a small surgery to remove the lump and six weeks of radiation I would be home free; I could get back to a normal life, continue racing and pursue my dream of becoming a personal trainer, not to mention take care of my family. The pathology report from my surgery revealed the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, which meant the cancer cells could be lurking in my system somewhere. My surgeon also wasn’t happy with the surgery he performed. He felt it was necessary to go back and perform a second lumpectomy just to make sure he got the tumor with clear margins. Needless to say I started to panic a little and wondered if my treatment plan would change to include chemotherapy.
After seeing an oncologist and then getting a second opinion from another oncologist who I liked and trusted much better than the first, I realized this was not just a bump in the road, but more of a mountain to tackle. The treatment to get rid of this cancer was going to be tough! I was about to endure eight cycles of chemotherapy every other week; followed by six weeks of radiation on a daily basis, plus five years of a drug called Tamoxifen. Boy was I blown away. Up until that point, I had been pretty naive and probably in denial about the seriousness of my disease. Now, I knew this was something I really could be afraid of if I allowed it to get the better of me, so I immediately switched gears and went into fight mode.
I realized now, that I was fighting for my life, and no one, no matter how well intentioned was going to fight this battle for me. I had to face this all by myself. I started to read everything on breast cancer; books, the Internet and articles in magazines. I spent hours becoming educated. I needed to know the treatment plan being offered along with my strong determination and faith was going to save my life. I am so thankful I did what I did. I have no regrets or questions about my treatment plan.
I have confidence in my team of doctors. I believe God chose these doctors for me. They are the experts and I feel they have provided me with the best course of action for my case, even though the plan seemed really aggressive and tough.
Moving forward to February 4, 2004
I am now halfway through chemotherapy! Every other Friday, a new cycle of drugs are administered to me through a medi-port inserted in my chest, which knocks me on my butt for a few days. The chemo is rough. It has made all my hair fall out, leaves me weak and tired and makes me sick to my stomach. Thank goodness it’s temporary. After five or six days, I usually bounce back and continue to exercise under what I call my “new normal.” My speed dial has been turned down from 100 to 60, but that’s OK. I feel that if I can make it to the gym, then I have at least made an effort. The good days are really good.
I feel so blessed and thankful for those good days. I could say, “Why me?”, but then I think “Why not me?” I believe everything happens for a reason. We all have bad things happen to us in life. Attitude is the key. I hope to turn this into a positive experience and help others one day. There’s no time for a pity party. I’m busy concentrating and praying on getting well. I am treating this cancer like I would a triathlon. It’s the biggest endurance event of my life. I have made it out of the swim and I am now on the bike, which is the longest part. My butt hurts on the bike, my legs are getting tired and I’m really looking forward to getting off to start that long run. The run will start after my next chemo treatment. Thanks for reading this and I promise to keep you all posted. God bless all of you.