My Story Begins … 2000 — The Year I Learned That Mammograms Save Lives. It’s early in the year as I watch my cousin Cherry continue to battle breast cancer. I had just completed my annual mammogram screening when I got the first of many calls regarding my mammogram results. Asked to come back for an ultrasound, then a biopsy, due to something suspicious. After additional testing, I was told I had ‘dense fibrous tissue’ but there was no reason for alarm or concern.
Then tragic news, in 2001 my family and I learn of the passing of my cousin Cherry. After battling breast cancer so courageously, Cherry succumbed to it on her 49th birthday. I knew that she had postponed her mammograms for six years. The fact that I’m here today to tell you my story is proof enough … Mammograms Save Lives! Please carry this message to your family, friends, colleagues, moms, daughters and sisters and know that this simple call to action … this all too familiar battle cry … this act of kindness … CAN SAVE A LIFE.
2007 — Another Biopsy and More Cause For Concern. In 2007, my mammogram results prompted the need for yet another biopsy. Complications followed as an infection set in as the biopsy area did not heal properly. The dressing covering the biopsy needed to be changed twice daily, as there was a considerable amount of drainage. There was pain, confusion and some fear. But through it all, I had the strength and determination of my husband, Al. The post-biopsy diagnosis; A-Typical cells. While my A-Typical cells were deemed non-cancerous at the start and with news that they may never become cancerous, my outlook was cautious optimism. No doubt the condition of the cells demanded attention, like a precursor to future events as yet to unfold.
2009 — Options, Percentages and Wishful Thinking. 2009 brought more ultrasounds and biopsies. It was at this time that I was told I had cells with Lobular Carcinoma in Situ. Al and I decided it would be best to go ahead with a bilateral mastectomy and be done with all this. But after meeting with our surgeon, we were convinced that the bilateral mastectomy wasn’t necessary. As we were told, there was only a 1.5% chance per year of the Lobular Carcinoma in Situ becoming cancer. Stats like that brought some comfort to my situation and so Al and I opted out of the bilateral mastectomy surgery. In hindsight… how I wish I would have listened to my gut feeling.
2010 — The Call That Changed My Life. Nine months later, in August 2010, I found myself back at my doctor for my annual mammogram. Again, I needed another ultrasound and biopsy. The wait for the test results was longer this time. I took the call at work. I heard the words no one wants to hear… ‘You’ve got Breast Cancer’. I had gone from a 1.5% chance of getting breast cancer to 100% in only nine short months. How can that be? Since the day of that call … of learning my cancer diagnosis … I don’t believe in ‘odds’ anymore.
Tough times followed. Dark times. Frightful times. Sad times. Watching my family deal with this was extremely hard. In September I had my surgery, a bilateral mastectomy along with lymph nodes removed. Post surgery my emotions ran the gambit from emptiness, pain, fear, dread, and horror. As luck would have it, because of the extent of the bilateral mastectomy, another surgery was required in December of 2010. While the misfortune of an additional surgery was required, I took the time to count my blessings in that my diagnosis and post-op plan did NOT require chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Just various medications of which I still take today.
After months of recovery and pain, I returned to work and the world. I was afraid to leave the safety of my home, the strength of my husband and family support group. I was concerned about my privacy and perception. Wherever I went, I felt the world was looking at me, whispering. , I still feel that way.
2019 — Counting My Blessings and Living Life One Day At A Time. I count my blessings every day by enjoying the time I spend with my three granddaughters, my grandson, my husband, my two sons, their wives and my parents. I look at each day as a gift. Nine years after that fateful day and diagnosis, I occasionally find myself occasionally dealing with sadness and thoughts of Cherry. I can never escape the fear … that my cancer ‘may’ return.
My Story NOW … 2016 — 2019 The Future, Pink Pedals 4 A Cure. Through it all, my husband Al supported me every step of the way. To honor my journey and that of other breast cancer survivors, Al has completed three Pink Pedals 4 A Cure | Terry’s Ride ‘solo’ bicycle ride(s). In 2016, Al completed a 517-mile bicycle ride for our inaugural Pink Pedals 4 A Cure | Terry’s Ride from St. Paul, Minnesota to Geneva, Illinois. In 2017, Al completed a 1,744-mile ride from St. Paul, Minnesota to the global headquarters of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) in New York City. In 2018, Al completed a 3,400-mile ride from the Santa Monica Pier to the global headquarters of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) in New York City.
With your help, in 2020 Al will attempt a ColossAL 6,000-mile multi-country solo bicycle ride starting in Anchorage, Alaska, riding through Western Canada and across the United States, ending his ride at the global headquarters of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) in New York City. Our goal in 2020 remains, as always, to raise awareness and donations for breast cancer research, supporting me and all those fighting breast cancer. His journey is just beginning. Please join my family in supporting Al’s ride and … to help find a cure for breast cancer.