In April 2001, I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. I was a news anchor for WESH-TV, and there was no way I’d be able to hide the soon-to-be bald head, freakishly pale skin, and weight loss of chemotherapy…. or the repeated multiple days I’d miss from work. I also didn’t want to push my autobiography on the 6 pm news. So to share may story and try to dispel rumors and fear, I wrote this diary. These days it would be called a blog. I was ahead of my time. 🙂 I am republishing them, mostly unedited, in hopes of inspiring and informing a new decade of cancer patients and their families. Here’s February 2002
“Now You Have a Hairstyle” and Setting Post-Cancer Race Goals
February 1, 2002
So I did something this week that I haven’t done since the end of April: I got a haircut, and my hair was even long enough for Michael to put some highlights in the front.
I was looking forward to the appointment for days! It’s another sign of life returning to normal, I suppose. Afterwards, somebody looked at my hair and said, “Now, you actually have a hairstyle.” I know exactly what they meant, and it’s so much fun to have highlights again. As long as I can’t be blonde, I’ll have the next closest thing: highlights. This weekend, I took part in an awesome event: Track Shack Foundation’s Lady Track Shack 5K in Winter Park. About 1,500 women and girls came out — boys weren’t allowed. It was a fundraiser for the Alice T. McMahon Scholarship Fund at Florida Hospital. Basically, it pays for mammograms for women who can’t afford them. We raised $14,000 for the cause. Isn’t that incredible? The race and its proceeds doubled last year’s totals. I didn’t run. Since I had surgery a week before, I walked. It took forever. At 18 minutes, I was just passing mile one. When I’m in good running form, I’m done with a 5K in 22 minutes and change. At least I had good company. I got to walk with Orlando Miracle coach Carolyn Peck, and Dr. Dave was working the water stop. That was fun. At the race, they gave breast cancer survivors little stuffed teddy bears. I have a friend who lives nearby who’s just starting her chemotherapy, and I thought she’d like the bear. I brought it over, and we talked about what she’s going through. Her second treatment was this week.
It seems like such a long time ago for me, although I know it wasn’t. She’s doing better than I did. She isn’t throwing up from the drugs. Uggh. Terrible memories. I caught that fever-cold-cough-hoarse voice-sneeze-junk that’s going around. I slept most of it off this weekend. I found myself comparing it to when I was down-and-out with chemo sickness, and it really wasn’t that bad. Funny how a little cancer can change your perspective on things. 🙂 I am putting together my racing calendar for the year, and that’s lots of fun. I really missed that last year. I know I did some 5Ks, but I did them just to do them. I wasn’t racing. I have the dates of the triathlon series, and I am making plans for the Lance Amstrong Century Ride (100 miles!), and I’m trying to pick a fall or winter marathon.
My goal is to race every distance, 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon, faster than I did b.c. (before cancer). I think that’s a good goal, although it makes me wish I had been a little slower last year.
Big New Athletic Goal. And the Start of the Livestrong Connection
February 8, 2002
I just finished my first bottle of Tamoxifen, and I had to refill the prescription.
So far, no side effects that I have noticed. No hot flashes, and no weight gain either. I’m crossing my fingers that this will continue for, oh, four years and 11 months. I also got my notice for my annual visit to the gynecologist. That would be the same visit last year that started off the whole breast cancer ordeal. I can’t believe it’s almost been a year. And honestly, it makes me a little anxious to go back to that doctor. I’ll have to procrastinate for a while. I’m getting ready to go to Salt Lake City for the Olympics too. I’ll report, not just for WESH NewsChannel 2, but for all 28 Hearst-Argyle-owned stations. There are stations in Pittsburgh, Boston and Sacramento. I’m really looking forward to reporting. I got to report at the Atlanta summer games in 1996, but only because of the bomb.
After the Olympics, I have set a new goal: the Lance Armstrong Ride for the Roses. It’s in April in Austin, Texas. It’s his fundraiser for his foundation. Lance Armstrong is my hero. When I was feeling terrible through chemotherapy, I would remember things he talked about in his book and know that I could get through it. And seeing him recover from cancer, and win three Tour de France races, was incredibly inspiring! I think that riding my first century ride, 100 miles, in a cancer fundraiser ride with Lance Armstrong, almost exactly a year after my cancer diagnosis, is perfect. It’ll be an incredible statement of survival. I’m going to try to get an interview with him, too, if I can. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, I’m going to change my training routine from running to more riding. That makes sense, since the century will probably take me more than seven hours. I’m heading out on a 40-mile ride Sunday. My century riding partner, Giti, will be out of town, so I’ll get a headstart on him. He’ll catch up quickly, though. There won’t be much riding of bikes in Salt Lake City. (15 degrees?) I talked to my friend from the chemo room, Nona, this week. She’s doing great, physically. She even has been playing golf. But just as things got better for her, things turned terrible for her. Her husband, Jim, died this week. He had been deteriorating because of lung disease. It doesn’t seem fair how tough life can be sometimes. Luckily, Nona has wonderful people who live around her who will help. She’s still taking chemo every week for her pancreatic cancer, but she never complains.