Health

Two Years Later, Here Are 10 Ways Breast Cancer Changed Me

One runner’s relationship with her body, mind and spirit.

image1

It’s been almost two years since I finished radiation. Amazing how it seems so long ago now—I’m thankful for that. (When I was diagnosed, I never would have imagined I’d be running in the Boston Marathon this year!) I’m more thankful that early detection meant a relatively quick treatment (no chemo) and recovery. In the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are 10 random thoughts on how cancer has changed me…

  1. I’m so relieved and happy to hear about women having mammograms. It makes such a difference to know as soon as possible—there’s much more opportunity to cure it.
  2. I definitely feel a kind of devastation flashback when I hear about another friend, acquaintance or woman getting that dreaded diagnosis. While this month of October is so important for awareness, it feels bittersweet.
  3. My A-cup boobies are to the point where support isn’t that big of a deal anymore—like before my surgery—which is super for tops with built-in bras and being able to run in just about anything.
  4. I still feel some effects of my treatment, whether it’s while stretching my arm overhead or dropping to the ground in a CrossFit pushup. I try to focus on the positives—and the pain elsewhere as I push my body (in a good way).
  5. Even though plenty of people don’t even know I had cancer, there are constant reminders for me (thank you, Tamoxifen and hot flashes), so once in a while when someone expresses their support for me going through what happened two years ago, I can still appreciate it.
  6. I don’t think the fear of cancer returning can ever go away fully, but as more time passes it gets easier.
  7. Once I was cleared to run after treatment, I overdid it with only running (for most of my exercise), so this past year has been more about overall body strength and flexibility. In the long run (haha!), this full-body focus will benefit my running too!
  8. I have a new response to challenges. I’ve often set big goals and worked doggedly to achieve them, but I used to focused more on achievements and the mental juice involved in reaching them. Now I think more about the process and enjoying it for what it is. Since most of life is the journey, I don’t see the reason to focus on the finish line.
  9. In terms of the finish line at races, I’ve found that speed hasn’t been my friend of late. I’ve been okay with slow at many times since having breast cancer, but I’m getting kind of tired of it. I’ve found that some sprints at the end of a run really boost my spirit—even if my sprints are someone else’s jog.
  10. Despite the heartache I feel when I hear about other people’s much more devastating connections with cancer, I am hopeful that society can work together toward more cures and prevention. To that end, I hope you’ll consider donating to your favorite breast cancer organization and supporting your friends running for different charities. If you’re looking for inspiration, join me in supporting Edith Sanford Breast Foundation and a friend I made at running camp this summer—he and his wife are running NYC in support of their family and for a better future for his daughters.