Meet pretty Rossana "Living With" Breast Cancer Survivor!
My life turned out pretty amazing.
I was never really active, unless you consider shopping and all of that mall-walking ‘good for your health’. At 42, I faced those two words, “It’s cancer.” I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but there was no history of cancer in my family, and six months earlier I had a normal mammogram. There were more words from my doctor, words like, “so young”, “chemotherapy”, “bilateral mastectomy”, “radiation”, and “reconstruction”. Why did I find myself apologizing to my husband? I was traumatized the first 24 hours. That was 2009.
My first surgery inserted a port for chemo, to help keep my veins from breaking down. The next three weeks were one test after another, a set of needles after another, and I often fought tears past smiling because the pain was great. Eight rounds of chemo, three weeks apart. Every chemo was followed by an injection to ward off infections, only to produce flu-like symptoms, a very normal side effect. “Exercise is medicine”, said the posters throughout the cancer ward. I walked because that was all I could do. A girlfriend accompanied me every morning and we walked, rain or shine, for an hour every morning.
Too weary to walk, I envied people jogging and bicycling. I felt one step closer to peace, one step closer to being wearier by the moment, and yet happy to know that chemo was doing its work. Every ounce of my body ached, and strange as it may sound, walking eased the pain.
My husband and friends never left my side. I had to stop riding my motorcycle, too dizzy to hold up my bike. I spent Christmas day sleeping on the couch, drained. My son turned 16 before my final round of chemo. My other son learned to sit with me while I slept. Two weeks after chemo ended, I would endure my second surgery: bilateral mastectomy. My hospital room had the most visitors that morning to see me off; they were actually kicked out because it was too crowded. After surgery and in more pain, I had to keep walking. However, I was ordered by my doctors not to sweat while my stitches healed. What?! Walk and not sweat? I came so far only to slow down again. My walking girlfriend made sure we dragged on slowly, and she kept me laughing to ignore the slow pace.
Six weeks of healing brought me to radiation. Thirty-four rounds of radiation - every morning, Monday through Friday, and it was draining. The only side effect was fatigue. It was easy.
I celebrated the end of treatment by learning how to run, and running my first 5K. My son ran by my side in Tacoma City Marathon/Half Marathon/5K, the day before I returned to work. Since that race, I would go on train for my first half marathon, You Go Girl Half Marathon. By the end of the year I had reconstruction, my final surgery. That was 2010. With more training, I completed my first marathon, returning to Tacoma City Marathon in 2011. I went on to complete my first ultra at Rainier to Ruston 50K. Somewhere in this time I became Half Fanatic 606 and Marathon Maniac 3876, and my husband met me at every finish line. I hope to cross finish lines without crying, so happy to have endurance when there was a day I could barely sit up. When I’m tired of running I still cry, because I remember envying people doing exactly what I’m doing, exercising for medicine. I entered 2012 with my mind made up to endure more joy. When I was on the course the number one question I noticed was, “Why do you do it?” I say, “It was cancer; now, I do it to celebrate. “
-The Amazing Rossana-