When I was asked by Jeanne Kruithoff, avid ACS volunteer and fellow Relay for Life team captain, to write my reasons for participating in this year’s Relay For Life, being held on June 21st & 22nd at Juniper Valley Park, I didn’t have to think long about what it was I wanted to say.

In late May of 2007, during my daily shower, I discovered a small lump on my right breast. I wasn’t completely alarmed given the fact that I was only thirty-seven and had no family history of cancer. Let’s face it, the average woman never even thinks about having her first mammogram until she turns forty, and that’s exactly what I had intended to do. The fact that my breasts were large gave me reason enough to believe that I may just have what doctors sometimes refer to as “fatty” breasts.

Unfortunately, over the course of three weeks, that small lump had tripled in size and had become sore to the touch. Now I thought I had better get checked out by a doctor just to be on the safe side. I immediately went to the gynecologist and when I told him how the lump had progressed in size in such a short time, he insisted that I not even have a biopsy, but that I have a removal of the entire mass.

I was told not to worry too much due to the fact that breast cancer does not usually involve pain and doesn’t grow at such a rapid pace. Well, I turned out to be the exception to that rule, because much to the surprise of my family, my surgeon, and me the results came back malignant! How could I have cancer, when all the signs pointed to it being benign?

My doctor called it a “spontaneous occurrence”. As for the rapid growth, that was due to an overproduction of HER2/neu protein. I was devastated, in shock, and very scared, but my surgeon assured me that he would go back in and get the remainder of the cancer cells out before it had a chance to spread further. So, I had my second surgery, and underwent four months of very aggressive chemotherapy, which included a drug called Herceptin.

Herceptin is a recently (over the last two or three years) FDA approved drug that helps the body fight the excessive production of HER2 protein and is given intravenously every three weeks for a total of fifty-two weeks; however, the major side effect is Heart Failure, and with the results of a MUGA (Multiple Gated Acquisition scan) proving I acquired, I can no longer receive this drug, leaving my body to fight for itself after only six treatments. I gave my situation a lot of thought and given a sixty-forty chance of re-occurrence (60% being in cancer’s favor), as opposed to a 95% chance of no re-occurrence with the removal of my breasts, I decided I liked my odds of living a whole lot better with the surgery.

I had double-mastectomy surgery on February 22, 2008 and am recovering with minimal discomfort, although my energy level peaks around noon each day. I had gone back to college in 2006 to get an associate’s degree in healthcare management (oddly enough) and had to put that on hold with only one semester left to go. I am now returning in July to finish getting my degree.

For as long as I can remember when people used the phrase, “the C word”, they were referring to cancer. However, since kicking cancer’s butt, the only thing “the C word” stands for in my eyes is COURAGE! Cancer survivors are, to me, the most courageous creatures on the planet. My team, The Pink Posse, has a mission of hope. I created a website dedicated to the hope that someday we will win this war on all forms of cancer. As I state on our website (www.thepinkposse.info), “You don't have to have cancer to be affected by it. Cancer hurts everyone”. Remember, this war can only be won together!

The Middle Village Relay for Life will take place at Juniper Valley Park Saturday, June 21st (starting at 4:00 pm) through Sunday, June 22nd (ending approximately 9:00 am)

Please join us! Call Jeanne Kruithoff, Chairperson/ Entertainment & Activities & Team Captain at 718-801-9435 for more information.