Why I Rallied
When I first learned that I had breast cancer, it was 1987 and I was 39 years old. I was in good health, had never smoked and was a distance runner. I was not overweight, had nursed my three babies, had good eating habits, and had no history of breast cancer in my family. How was it that breast cancer decided to pick me out?
The protocol at that time was to remove the breast and check the lymph nodes. Our doctor said that if the lymph nodes were clear, then chemotherapy and/or radiation were not needed. My nodes were clear, so the mastectomy was my total treatment at that time. Life went on and the years rolled by, and I had almost stopped worrying that I would have a recurrence. Then, in 1996, nine years after the first bout, I had a chest wall recurrence.
By this time, treatment techniques had become more advanced, and in addition to having a portion of my rib and pectoral muscle removed, I had both radiation and chemotherapy. After that, I was put on tamoxifen. It was apparent that, thanks to advances in research and new drugs, were beginning to emerge.
By the time of my recurrence in 1996, I had become an avid golfer. I found out through Golf Digest Magazine that Susan G. Komen was going to start Rally for the Cure. My family and I had been running in the Race for the Cure in past years, and I knew just how instrumental Komen was in research and progress in the fight against breast cancer. I decided that I would organize a Rally at our golf club. It seemed to me that I now could fight back against this terrible disease in my own way.
What started with 33 women sending $250.00 to Komen in 1996 eventually evolved into an all-consuming, year-round passion. By 2005, we had raised over $200,000 for Komen and I was recognized for my efforts by the LPGA with the 2004 LPGA Komen Award, and my family and I were featured in the September 2005 Golf For Women Magazine. What a thrill!
In 2004 I had another recurrence. This time, the cancer had metastasized to my bones. I underwent two separate surgeries, one to remove the cancer and a second one six months later to build a titanium cage around my vertebrae to provide support to my neck and head. 20 radiation treatments, monthly bone building infusions of Zumata, and estrogen inhibitor drugs have become the regimen for me.
I have a wonderful oncologist who is keeping me in the fight. And in many ways, I’m fortunate because my cancer is estrogen-positive, and many drugs are developed to help fight this type breast cancer.
So here it is, the spring of 2008, and my last PET scan indicates I have “hot spots” in several areas. Last month I had 15 radiation treatments to “knock out” the spots in my thoracic vertebras, and just this afternoon I had my sixth (of ten) radiation treatment against a spot in my left shoulder.
Although I’m still angry that breast cancer has chosen me to pick on, I still enjoy my life. I shot a 91 in my golf match yesterday, and my partner and I won 2nd place in an annual tournament. And tomorrow I’m celebrating my 40th wedding anniversary with my husband, John.
I like to think that the money I helped raise with the Rally events has contributed to the development of the drugs, equipment and protocols that are now helping me to continue a meaningful, active life. Because of Komen, I look forward to a long life ahead; one that ends with old age, not breast cancer.
Learn more about Rally for the Cure.
While her cancer has challenged her on many levels, Susie continues to live her life today to the fullest, enjoy her family, and not let her cancer get the best of her. Susie just welcomed another grandchild this year, a baby boy.
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.