October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. While most people are aware of breast cancer, few often take the necessary steps to detect and/or prevent the disease in its early stages. We encourage everyone to participate in an early detection plan that can help you prevent/treat Breast Cancer.
Marina’s story of strength, determination and survival will inspire you to participate in an early detection plan, to get involved in your community and help others who are battling cancer.
How old were you when you were diagnosed with Breast Cancer?
I was 31 years old. Early in 2015 while I was training for the Phoenix Marathon, my third time trying, I noticed an ache in my right breast. Knowing that my mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor BRCA1+, I knew I was at risk and decided to get checked. My mammogram was one week before the race.
The race was the perfect distraction, I focused on the race, my goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and I did it, with a 3:31:59 marathon time! Boston here I come! The next week my biopsy results came back, I tested positive for Stage 2 Bilateral Breast Cancer, Triple Negative, BRCA1+. I had a new “marathon” to focus on.
What was your treatment plan?
Since I knew my mom was BRCA1+ positive I had blood drawn to do genetic testing. I want to stress this for anyone with breast or ovarian cancer in their family! It’s important to know your risks so you can decide what’s best for you. It was during that process I had the mammogram and biopsy done. Everyone’s breast cancer is different. I have triple negative breast cancer meaning there is no hormone receptors for my cancer.
Some women have to be aware of hormone medications or take medication after treatment. My cancer responds best to chemotherapy and we started with that immediately. I had 16 infusions of chemotherapy. Two weeks after that was finished I had a bilateral mastectomy and expanders placed for reconstruction. All tests came back clear after surgery so I am now cancer free!
How do you stay so positive?
When the doctors tell you “one day at a time” it’s so true! There are so many tests and doctor visits and therapy and treatment. I had a second opinion consult and choose doctors I was most comfortable with. After that I would focus on what made me feel good like healthy nutrition, walking my dog, yoga, or just normal stuff like attending birthday celebrations. One day at a time for me meant anything from taking a 20 minute nap at work or drinking ginger tea to prevent nausea. I had moments of sadness like when my hair started to fall out, but I always had a plan.
When I shaved my head I had friends around me for support. I decided during this process I didn’t want to waste a day of feeling good worrying about what tomorrow would bring. Cancer will force you to live in the moment in the greatest way. Everything means more after cancer. When I became grateful for life, people saw it and returned the positive support.
What are you most looking forward to in 2016?
This week I registered for a race I’m not sure I’ll be able to do yet and that’s the 2016 Boston Marathon. If I get in, I will have three months to train after my last reconstruction surgery in December. I’ve never been more motivated to get back to running and country dancing with my boyfriend, but I have to remember…one day at a time.