As many of you know, I began my career in healthcare working in cancer research. I was in charge of studying the correlation between Stress and Immunity at the Ohio State University. My job was to focus on women with stage IV breast cancer. I recruited them, I took their blood samples to evaluate their immune function, and I administered Quality of Life questionnaires to look at their stress levels. We were able to predict, with amazing (and sad) accuracy the life expectancy based on this correlation. I was moved by the women's willingness to participate in this research because by doing so, they waived all rights to know that they were overly stressed and therefore more likely to pass away faster than someone who wasn't as stressed.
I started to create bonds and relationships with these women - I really began to care for them. There were 2 women in particular that have stayed with me to this day; it has been over 10 years.
One was a young lady who was not much older than I was at the time. I was 24. She had just had twins and found out that she had breast cancer that had already spread to the bones. I wasn't aware that she just had the babies, literally within 36 hours when I approached her to recruit her. Let's just say, it didn't go so well. I was mortified that the information I was given was inaccurate. She was right to say no to participating in the study. She was justified in her anger - her anger with me; her anger with God; her anger with the doctors; her anger with anyone. She was allowed these emotions. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to tell her that she should see a counselor, or do anything possible to reduce her stress because she can fight this and win. I wanted to tell her about our findings. But I couldn't. I had to simply thank her for her time, wish her well, give her my business card in case she changed her mind, and walk out of her hospital room. I don't know what happened to her, but based on my experience, she didn't survive these 10 years. I think of her often, even more so today now that I have 2 daughters of my own. God, the heartbreak she must have felt.
The second woman is the reason - or at least part of the reason - I got out of cancer research. She was in her fifties. She was bold, beautiful, charismatic, educated, well-dressed, and always in style. She reminded me of my mom. They even had the same haircut. I had her most recent Quality of Life study and her immune function, and things were not looking good for her. It was April when I followed up with her. We sat and talked, laughed and day-dreamed about the future. One of the questions I had to ask her was what does she see herself doing in 6-9 months, which would've been December at the latest. She said, "Celebrating Christmas with my son and two daughters." I felt bile rise into my mouth because I knew, based on her stress and immune function results, that it would be very unlikely that she would live to see Thanksgiving. But of course, I couldn't tell her that. I couldn't tell her to seek counseling. I couldn't advise her to do anything and it killed me. The very next day, my mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and she came to Columbus to spend time with me. We went to the mall together and ran into this patient at the mall. It was devine intervention. Seeing my mom and this woman talk about how wonderful I am, how awesome their other kids are and how optimistic they both were that they would live to see their kids all married off, meet all of their grandchildren, and any other joy that moms/grandmas want to see, absolutely killed me. I was watching 2 women, who had never met, share a bond of cancer, of dying and not even knowing it. I decided at that moment that I wasn't cut out for keeping secrets or watching people die right before my eyes from cancer. I turned in my two weeks the very next day.
I raise money and awareness for Pancreatic Cancer as much as I can. When my mom passed away, just 17 days after I was married, I swore off donating to anything but Pancreatic Cancer. It has taken me a long time to decide it was "ok" to raise money for other cancers, especially those that have such an amazing network of donations, fundraisers, and committed researchers working towards a cure. But after having the scare of my life while pregnant with my second - a very large, suspicious lump in my breast - I decided it didn't matter anymore. If a cure is found for breast cancer, it could possibly mean a cure for other cancers. If a cure is found for breast cancer, maybe funds would be reallocated to other cancers. And without the efforts and knowledge raised for breast cancer to date, maybe that large, suspicious lump would've stayed in my breast. Maybe without the concern from my doctor, because he knew what this could mean for me, I would have not had it removed. Maybe by keeping it in there it would've turned into cancer. Maybe I wouldn't be here today to raise money for Susan G. Komen.
So I may not have been directly affected by breast cancer; because I am not a "Survivor." I may not have been directly affected by breast cancer because my loved one died from Pancreatic Cancer. I may not have been directly affected by breast cancer because I can't get behind the color pink. I may not fit the typical mold for a walker - but what I can give is hope that this walk, my participation, my passion will lead to a change in how all cancers are diagnosed, researched, treated and cured. I can give you a broken, shattered mold of a walker who wants to see everyone fight and beat cancer, any cancer. Whether it is to save their Ta-Tas, save their leg from amputation as a result of osteosarcoma, or keep their sugar-lovin' pancreas intact even after receiving a death-sentence of a diagnosis.
I walk for the rainbow of ribbons. I walk for those who have passed too soon. I walk for those who lost their loved ones too soon. I walk alongside the survivors, the fighters, and the crusaders. I walk for you.
So, please support me as I take on an incredible challenge. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day® isn’t just a 60-mile walk over the course of three days—it’s a journey to the end of breast cancer - to the end of all cancers. Seventy-five percent of the net proceeds raised by the 3-Day® help support Komen’s Research and Training Grant Program and large public health outreach programs for women and men facing breast cancer. The remaining 25 percent helps fund local community and Affiliate support and outreach programs.