Epiphany (10/25/15)

beach run savannah 2014

I ran 4 miles this morning with my pack of favorite gals. Last year, we ran the Savannah half marathon together. I was supposed to run this year, but have other plans now. 🙁  I had an epiphany while running today.. I kept looking ahead and feeling tired because some of the girls were out in front of me. Then I’d look down at the ground and focus on my pace and talking to the friend I was running with, and I felt stronger and able to keep going. It’s a profound lesson for me in dealing with cancer: don’t look too far ahead because you can get tired and scared. Focus on where you are NOW and keep moving forward. I think it will be key to my recovery. Love to all my running girls (not all pictured here in this photo from beach run last year).

Also, check out this 2 minute story Piedmont Healthcare did on me and my early detection of breast cancer in my annual mammogram.. a lot of folks said they only saw the 20 second clip. The longer piece was really well done. Click here: http://bit.ly/1hUt9cF to see it.

My Amazing Kid (10/21/15)

sofi blue hair

Sofi has truly been my rock throughout this experience. She was the first person I told I definitely had breast cancer. We’d already discussed I thought my lump was trouble, and that it was going to have to come out and may be cancerous.

Jay was out of town on a trip when my doctor called in the late evening to tell me the news. I climbed the stairs in the dark and found Sofi in her room. “It’s cancer,” I said, “the doctor just called. I’ll find out more in the morning when I meet with the breast surgeon.”

Sofi looked me in the eye and said: “OK. We know what it is. We’ll get it out, and you’ll be OK. My friend’s Mom had breast cancer. She had a lump. She had a lumpectomy and radiation and got it out. She’s doing great. You will be OK too.” She even went on to give me her friend’s Mom’s phone number.. telling me she wanted to talk to me. AND she asked me if I knew it was Breast Cancer Awareness month in October!

She set the tone for how I’ve dealt with this. Positive. Looking forward. We’ll deal with it. I’ll be OK.

One more thing: while I was cleaning house one weekend, I wrote my mantra on the blackboard in our kitchen: “I can. I will. I’m positive. I’m strong.”

Sofi came home from a sleepover and walked into the kitchen. She took one look at the blackboard and sat down and wrote next to my mantra: “WE can. WE will. WE’RE positive. WE’RE strong.”

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I have the most incredibly supportive kid. She BELIEVES I’m going to be OK! I know I will be OK because SHE believes it. There are dozens of other stories of her quiet strength and support and wisdom. I’m blessed to have this old soul in my life.

I Feel Fine (10/16/15)

clare porch 2

I feel fine!!

So strange to have a breast cancer diagnosis and major surgery coming up but to feel great physically. Now, granted, I’m a stress ball because of the news, but physically feel great.. am still running, working out, being as active as I can be to stay in great shape so HOPEFULLY I’ll have a speedy recovery.

Just another lesson in early detection with my annual mammogram. I would NEVER have known that I had a stage 2 breast cancer tumor if my mammogram hadn’t picked it up. I didn’t feel it, and I didn’t feel sick.

I’m so thankful that I can deal with it and have a good prognosis NOW and didn’t wind up finding out when it was too late and I was actually feeling sick.

Headed out on a camping trip in Cloudland Canyon State Park with lots of good friends. Should be great weather and a wonderful weekend of hiking and family time. Here’s to many, many more fabulous weekends in the future.. and of feeling fine!!

Walking and Talking (10/14/15)

Friend Nathan Walker shared this post:

nathan and clare

Today was every bit as beautiful as yesterday, and so I went back for an encore walk around Stone Mountain! But on this day I had a walking buddy, and more importantly, a TALKING buddy, which beats music on earphones any day!

Clare Schexnyder was a news producer back when we both worked at CNN. Eventually she left television to become founder, CEO and co-owner of her own successful business, called “Oh Baby! Fitness.”

Anyone who knows Clare will tell you she’s an amazing person. She has great passion, and compassion, for the things she believes in. Our 5-mile walk today gave us plenty of time to talk about life and our own personal challenges, and as far as that latter category is concerned, there’s no question she’s got me beat.

In recent weeks Clare was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two weeks from Friday she’ll be undergoing a double mastectomy. The good news is that the cancer was detected early, and that she is estrogen positive (meaning she won’t have to undergo chemo prior to her surgery). Even more important is the fact she has plenty of amazing friends and family who will be there to support her every step of the way, including her husband Jay and their amazing daughter Sofi.

I listened and learned a lot about doctors and procedures and treatments. And I marveled at Clare’s level-headed ability to detail the weeks between her diagnosis and right now, including some of the decision-making, emotions, and conversations that have taken place. It was almost impossible to detect any self-pity in her voice as she talked.

Clare also listened to ME talk, offering both encouragement and advice about a couple of things that have been weighing on me of late. And then, as we were finishing our walk around the mountain, she actually had the nerve to thank ME for spending time with HER!

I’ll tell you what, walking/exercise sure is easier when you have good company. And life sure is better when you know amazing & inspiring people like Clare!

 

Never Give Up (10/9/15)

never give up

Hi friends.. an update on where I’m at with my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. My surgery is scheduled for October 30th. I will have a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction at the same time. I’ve chosen to do a DIEP Flap reconstruction, (http://www.drgracema.com/br-diep/) which uses abdominal tissue and fat (no muscle) to rebuild the breasts instead of implants. Not everyone is a candidate for this surgery, but I had enough belly fat to donate to the cause! I knew I was saving it for something! 😉

I will be in the hospital for 4-5 days and then will be in serious recovery at home for 3-4 weeks. My family will be with me during that time (Mom, Dad, and Jay and Sofi and sister Hayley, who is a nurse!). I hope to be well on my way to a new normal by the new year.

Again, I am extraordinarily lucky that the cancer was caught in an annual mammogram. My cancer is estrogen positive, meaning I won’t have chemo before surgery. I am skipping out on radiation because I’m having a mastectomy. And I’m hopeful I will avoid chemo after surgery (but tests will be done post surgery to determine that for sure). I will take tamoxifen to further reduce my chances of recurrence.

I have an incredible team of doctors. Dr. Bill Barber is my breast surgeon. He’s an amazing man and talked to me for hours (!) about my diagnosis and treatment. He’s considered one of the best breast surgeons in the country. He’s also partnered with MD Anderson Cancer Center, which made me feel even more confident about my care. Dr. Grace Ma (a breast cancer survivor) and Dr. Sean Boutros (from Texas) are my plastic surgeons. Drs. Ma and Boutros are some of the leaders in their field when it comes to DIEP flap reconstruction (a relatively new surgery). Dr. Boutros is flying in from Texas for my operation. I feel like I’m in very good hands. Surgery will be at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

My prognosis is excellent, and I’m doing everything I can to follow the standard of care to remove the cancer and reduce my risk of recurrence. The odds are very much in my favor.

I and my family welcome any prayers and good vibes you want to send. It’s mind-blowing to be on the receiving end of all this positive energy. I am truly blessed and humbled by all the words of love and support I’ve received already and the many, many acts of kindness. My village is HUGE and wonderful.

There is a meal train set up by dear friend Kelleen: https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/890e05 Every bit of help is appreciated. Jay and Sofi are doing well, and we’re facing this together as a tight-knit family unit. Feel free to continue to reach out and support Jay and Sofi too. They need it.

I got a wonderful note from a friend yesterday whose wife had been through a mastectomy the year before. He said: “To be realistic, it’s not going to be an easy journey for either of you, but take it day by day, overcome each challenge one by one, and focus on a successful outcome. Looking back on the last year, the worst part — the most stressful part — was everything leading up to the surgery. On the morning of my wife’s surgery, the surgeon said ‘I know it’s a big deal for the family, but remember that medically it is a routine procedure.’ Until then I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but i suppose it helped to bring some perspective to the rather stressful proceedings.”

Such wise words! You totally lose perspective when you find out you have cancer. I need to focus on the future.. or at least visualize it. Cancer makes you question whether you have a future and demands you live in the present and agonize over every second.. every decision. I want you all to know that I’m trying not to do that so much now that I have surgery scheduled and my tests behind me. I’m going to focus on the future, getting well, and finding a new normal.

Love you, peeps. Will keep you updated after surgery (or someone will do that in this space when I cannot!) 🙂

Remember my new mantra: I can. I will. I’m positive. I’m strong.

Happiness Fights Cancer (9/28/15)

happiness fights cancer

Friend Cristin Davis wrote to me: “Saw this on the way to GSU and thought of you. In your case, I’d say this is 100% accurate! Your positivity and optimistic attitude always amaze me. And within hours of your announcement you had SEVERAL HUNDRED other people in your corner who already know you can do hard things! So, while there may be no happiness in the diagnosis, you’ve got tons of people happy to help you in the fight!”

Clare’s Not-so-Great Next Adventure (9/26/15)

Dear Friends, I wanted to fill you in on my next not-so-great adventure. A couple of weeks ago, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. It was caught in my annual mammogram, quickly diagnosed and now it’s my doctor’s recommendation that I have a bilateral mastectomy. Surgery will be scheduled sometime in the coming month. I still have to meet with plastic surgeons next week.

It all happened so fast. My head is truly spinning and it doesn’t seem real. But there are a few things I’m sure of:

I’m really lucky it was caught. I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel sick. My doctor didn’t feel it during my breast exam. It was only a “distortion” on my annual mammogram but on the follow-up 3D mammogram it was found to be 2.4 cm in size and right behind my nipple.

I’m going to be OK. My prognosis is excellent and the MRI shows no other cancer evident in my breasts. I have estrogen positive breast cancer, so I don’t have to have chemo before surgery and may skip out on it afterward. Since I’m having a mastectomy, I won’t have to have radiation either.

I have an amazing support system. I am truly blessed by the best friends and family ever. I welcome your prayers and good thoughts, and will accept gratefully any and all help for me and my family over the next few months. Keep an eye out for a meal train being set up by friends.. things like that will be so helpful, I’m sure.

I have to say I would have been happy to have had postpartum depression be my only challenge in life. Out of that challenge, Oh Baby! Fitness was born. Not sure what will come out of this challenge… but let’s hope for something equally as great. 🙂

I’ll keep you posted on my journey. Please, do me a favor and schedule your annual mammogram. So important!!