It is October which means it is Breast Cancer Awareness month! I feel so honored to introduce a strong and beautiful breast cancer survivor as this month’s spotlight: My mom, Carolyn. My mom is the absolute strongest person I know. She overcame cancer with bravery and a desire to stay healthy. She kept a positive attitude and never lost her zeal for life while battling cancer. She is such a great example to all who she comes in contact with of selflessness and determination, and I can honestly say that she is my hero. She is truly beautiful inside and out. I am so lucky to have her as my mother and also as my best friend. -McKell
Here is Carolyn’s story:
Thanks to the awesome ladies at Three Healthy Mommas for giving me the opportunity to share my journey. I hope it serves as a positive influence to anyone that is facing a challenge of their own.
I have always considered myself to be healthy and physically active. Since having a family of my own we have enjoyed many activities that have kept us active and helped us grow closer together, such as: biking, hiking, snow and water skiing, rollerblading and running. As long as we were doing an activity as a family, I was all for it.
As we continue to age there are always birthdays that approach that are more difficult than others, mine happened to be 50. I just did not like the thought or sound of that age! It wasn’t long before I had a reason to think it wasn’t so bad after all. I had already been running in shorter races (5 and 10K’s), but when I turned 50 I started to win in my age group. All of a sudden the competitive side of the race got a little more interesting! This gave me the confidence and desire to continue running and improve my speed while increasing my distance.
In the spring of 2011, I started training for the Utah Valley ½ marathon. My daughter McKell and I were regularly running our favorite 10 mile run up Provo Canyon. I never dreaded these longer runs, they were so much fun! The more I continued to run and train the more I enjoyed it. I knew as the ½ marathon approached I was ready and it would probably be quite easy.
Since the age of 40 I have had regular yearly mammogram screenings. One night as I was lying in bed doing a self-check I felt an unusual lump in my left breast. My first reaction was denial so I waited and checked for several days. When the lump did not go away I called and made an appointment for a mammogram. The mammogram led to an ultrasound which led to a biopsy, lumpectomy, and ultimately a mastectomy with lymph node dissection. Following surgery my diagnosis also led to 6 rounds of chemotherapy treatments, and 6 weeks of radiation therapy. My initial reaction was “How can this happen to me at this point in my life? After all, 50’s are not very old, I am probably in my best shape, I’m not overweight, I don’t smoke or drink. But cancer doesn’t care. It’s affecting lives all around us.
Cancer was a very frightening diagnosis for me and my family. On top of all that comes with a life threatening condition, I was also worried about what effect it would have on my physical health and wellness. Because of multiple surgeries I knew the race I had been training for was out of the question. Still I was determined to do whatever I could to keep myself mentally and physically healthy. I made a goal for myself that even though I wasn’t able to run, I could walk! Every day that I physically could during treatment, I donned my pink hat and got myself outside for a long fast paced walk. This was my way of saying, “Take that cancer! You can’t take everything away from me!” I know that through keeping a positive attitude throughout this challenge, the unrelenting support and encouragement continually given to me by my family, and my physical activity kept me renewed and I felt I could conquer the trial I had been faced with. I was mentally and physically strong.
Once my chemotherapy treatments and radiation were complete, I began the process of reconstructive surgeries. I continued walking and began adding in some jogging with the goal of returning to running when I was able. My first race was in the spring of 2012. All three of my daughters joined me in The Race For The Cure. We had been in this race before, but this time I was participating as a survivor. It was inspiring joining the throng of women in pink running and walking for the same cause. As I rounded the bend during the survivors parade and saw my daughters there in my support it was very touching and emotional. Next I signed up for a cancer awareness 5k sponsored by Lifting Hearts, a local cancer support group. The exciting results of this race for me included taking 1st place in both the survivor category and 1st place in the women’s category. The following June, I was able to participate in the AF Canyon Half Marathon. This is a beautiful race down American Fork Canyon with the proceeds benefiting cancer patients by helping pay their treatment bills. I took 2nd place in my age category. I felt like I was on my road to recovery!
Unfortunately for me, some of the tables have turned. Because of the damage caused by radiation to my skin, my reconstruction has been unable to heal. I have undergone multiple surgeries to try to correct the problem. Now 3 ½ years after diagnosis, I am still fighting the effects of cancer. Just recently, we have learned that my reconstruction would not heal, and had to be reversed. As I spoke with my doctor, we decided that it was time for my body to be given a break from recurring surgeries. This will hopefully give me a chance to get back to doing the things that I have put on hold that I love. Even though at this time I am not participating in the events that I would like to be, I still enjoy getting outdoors and walking multiple times a week. I look forward to the time when I can join my husband and daughters in running for fun or racing!
Cancer has given me a chance to see many tender mercies in my life through gifts from a loving Heavenly Father. I feel like I received the best care possible from very skilled doctors and nurses. The love and support that I receive from family and friends is unprecedented. I’ve learned that through maintaining a positive attitude and keeping a healthy perspective on life, we will be happier, healthier both mentally and physically, and be able to accept and conquer the trials and challenges that come our way.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, ladies get your screenings! :)