I agree with It’s The Journey‘s statement when they say, “The fight against breast cancer is not a single battle. It’s an ongoing struggle that is faced with courage and determination. It is, in fact, a journey.” My mother has been through a journey and one that hasn’t been pleasant but could have been much worse. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2015. In this article, I discuss our journey and why it’s so important to follow your gut and take action when it comes to health care. Listen to the doctors, follow through and ask questions!
My mother, Johnnie (77), who has never been blessed with good health, moved here to be closer to family several years ago. Six months after she was here, we received a letter from the TN hospital where she had her last mammogram stating that she needed a follow up mammogram. Thank goodness for that letter, because my brother and I were still trying to get her doctors and meds set up. The mammogram, which showed suspicious activity, was followed by a biopsy which came back normal. The following year, the other breast showed suspicious activity including a mass ~ a biopsy again came back normal. However, the next year, when she was due for her mammogram, my mom mentioned she felt something funny in her right breast. She couldn’t quite describe it, but something in her breast was changing. She mentioned to the nurse performing the mammogram that something felt different as well. I received a letter in the mail that the mammogram was normal and for her to come back in a year. Luckily, her doctor looked at the notes from the radiologist then ordered an ultrasound and scan.
The mass in her breast had grown considerably from the previous year and she needed to see a breast surgeon as soon as possible. The surgeon recommended a lumpectomy to remove the mass. Shortly after the lumpectomy, the call came that the mass was full of cancer. The thoughts that run through your mind are so scary! Did we find it soon enough? Has it spread? Did the biopsy from the previous year have sampling errors? Does she need a mastectomy and if so, will she need chemo and radiation? So many questions, if only we could know the answers too.
In December 2015, Johnnie had a double mastectomy. Now she had to deal with a huge scar on her chest, a flat chest and tubes on each side that were draining and needed to be tended to. A small amount had spread to a lymph node. The oncologist recommended that at this time she did not need chemo or radiation but to take Letrozole daily which would help stop cancer cells if they begin to form in the body. The letrozole has not done her any favors with hair (she lost a little and its texture has changed) or her dementia (it can make dementia a little worse I am told). Overall, my mom has been very lucky though ~ thanks to God, great surgeons and doctors and maybe her kids who try their best to stay on top of her health. 😉 Through it all, mom showed incredible strength and courage. She kept a positive attitude and took one step at a time.
This is where It’s The Journey, producer of Atlanta 2 Day Walk for Breast Cancer, comes in. Layne, my amazing graphic person on AMO, first walked in the 2015 Atlanta 2 Day Walk in honor of her mother, who is also a breast cancer survivor. Layne told me what an amazing experience it was on her team The Big Squeeze, and encouraged me to join her. It definitely needed some pondering b/c not only do you agree to walk 30 miles in two days but you also agree to raise $1000 in donations. I was daunted by the amount of money to raise, because I am uncomfortable asking people for money. The more I thought about it though, the more I really wanted to walk and support all those who are and will be affected by breast cancer. By helping to raise awareness of breast cancer and money for the charity, we are all helping more women survive and bringing funds to Georgia organizations that otherwise would not have had it.
“It’s The Journey (ITJ) is a 501(c)(3) local organization founded 13 years ago by a breast cancer survivor, Randi Passoff. When the Avon 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk pulled out of Atlanta in 2002, Randi, a long time walker, decided that Atlanta needed a fundraising event where all of the funds stayed local to support Georgia breast cancer patients and breast health programs. She created what we call “the kinder and gentler breast cancer walk”. Instead of the 3-Day model of walking 60 miles over 3 days and sleeping in a tent, the Atlanta 2-Day Walk covers 30 miles over 2 days and we sleep in a hotel.” (ITJ website) Randi Passoff unfortunately passed in 2010.
In March 2016, ITJ held their Annual Grantee Celebration where we they awarded the donations raised through the 2015 Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer to Georgia breast health and breast cancer programs. Over the past 14 years, It’s The Journey has raised over $12 million and funded 272 grants to support breast health programs throughout Georgia.
Thank you for your time in reading this. I don’t usually share this much personal information but if this in any way can help you or someone you know with breast cancer or the decision to walk in the Atlanta 2 Day, then we have succeeded. Please make your regular mammograms appointments and ask your doctor questions if you think something is different. The walk is less than a month away ~ wish us luck!
UPDATE!! The Atlanta 2 Day Walk for 2016 is over and we made it! It was so much fun and hard at the same time. I trained but had not walked more than 12 miles at once. The Atl2Day raised over $1 million last weekend (October 15-16, 2016)!! Our team was amazing with an incredible leader (Kristin Kepner) with the biggest heart of anyone I know. So glad to have experienced such a heartfelt weekend! Will fill you in on more but need to finish the October newsletter 😉 I am signed up for next year and recruited two friends to join The Big Squeeze!
*Picture above right: Training walk for the Atlanta 2Day ~ August 2016.