We’ve Come A Long Way Baby!

Blog-We've Come a long way baby

If you are “a woman of a certain age” you probably remember when the words “breast cancer” were always spoken (if they were spoken) in a whisper.

Did you know that in the early 1950’s, The New York Times refused to print an advertisement from a breast cancer support group? Editors objected to the use of both the word “breast” and the word “cancer”.

We hear that today and think “seriously?!”  We can think that because Komen has been the leading force in de-stigmatizing breast cancer. With conversation comes knowledge and with knowledge comes power and with power comes money and research and results. It all starts with awareness.

I am not sure I realized just how different my journey was from women of other generations until I chatted with my next-door neighbor Hope Deen.

Miss Hope turned 90 last year and she is my idol. (I am Southern and am slightly uncomfortable with calling her simply “Hope” in her presence so Miss Hope she is.)

Hope is so many kinds of fabulous that I cannot count them all. No matter what time of day I see her – announced or unannounced – she is fashionably attired (envision slim pants, crisp white dress shirts, cute flats and cheetah print accessories), with perfect hair / nails / makeup, and mentally sharper than I ever will be. Politics, fashion, celebrities, current events…she knows and has opinions on all of it. Hope FaceTimes on her iPad. Last we visited, she was planning a prank on her family. She was debating whether her Face Time disguise should be Barack Obama (she is a fervent Democrat), Sophia Loren, or Elvis – by wearing a mask she already owns.

I may have voted for the fabulous octogenarian Ms. Loren but I want to BE Hope Deen!

What I love most about Hope is that she will say exactly what she is thinking and half the time you never see it coming. For example, regarding a certain political scandal…”People just need to stop being so naïve!” (It was actually delightfully spicier than that but I can’t blog it here. Love her!)

This openness includes a wonderful willingness to tell her life stories. Hope noticed my pink ribbon car bling and we started chatting about breast cancer one day. She was so dismayed to learn I am a survivor (“but you’re too young!” – bless you Miss Hope). Then she told me her story.

Hope is the mother of three wonderful sons. When the boys were very little, she felt a lump in a breast and consulted her doctor. After referrals to specialists, Hope learned that the mass could indeed could be cancer. The standard of care at that time was to remove the lump under general anesthesia and biopsy it while the patient was still unconscious. If cancerous, a radical mastectomy would be performed and as Hope put it “my lady parts would be removed too.”

Miss Hope’s story of waking up and trying to determine if she was intact just stunned me. I knew breast cancer wasn’t spoken about much before the 1980’s, but I never followed that through…how the lack of awareness, low patient empowerment and limited scientific knowledge impacted the actual patient experience. Wow.

Yes dealing with breast cancer was hard, but I had the luxury of so many options for care (lumpectomy, single mastectomy, double mastectomy…if mastectomy, whether to reconstruct…and if so, how). I made my own decisions supported by doctors and other breast cancer professionals who, to a person, treated me with kindness and as a peer. They respected that I was educated about my disease. My own dad read every word in Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book. Thank you Susan G Komen for bringing breast cancer into the light!

Hope’s lump was benign…but the memory of that 50-plus-year-ago incident stayed with her. When she told me the story, she recalled every detail as if it were yesterday.

From fifty years ago to now to fifty years in the future…where will this journey take us? It’s up to us. My dream is that breast cancer will be taught in medical and history books right next to scurvy, and future generations of little girls will never grow up to associate their favorite color with a disease.

Let’s do everything we can this year to support the Race for the Cure with renewed purpose and urgency.

The cure IS out there. It’s past time we found it.

Marybeth

Marybeth Cornwell Head Shot Pink Jacket

*Our Guest Blogger, Marybeth Cornwell is the Honorary Survivor Chair for the 17th Annual Komen Ozark Race for the Cure.  Marybeth is the Senior Vice President of Home for Walmart United States and just celebrated her three year cancerversary.

“I Hate Cancer More Than I Hate Running!”

-I Hate Cancer More Than I Hate-Marybeth

I just finished with a training run!  I have that smug “uh-huh, I just worked out” feeling.

While I am decidedly one of the least authoritative resources, below are tips that got me to my first 5k (RFTC 2014) and to another one right before Thanksgiving.

Does the below sound like you?…

Not one of those gazelle-type gals with legs for days who thinks “why I wouldn’t dream of not logging at least 25 miles a week!”…

Coming out of winter (ahem) a bit heavier? (I’m lookin’ at you, Tamoxifen. Thanks for those last 10#)….well just remember that a little weight smooths a lot of the cellulite out so you actually look cuter running!

Plain old terrified to try?…

I. So. Get. This.

My fiancé is Mr. Marathon.  066

I kept my training a secret until we went on Spring Break last year and I had to confess what I was doing. (I am not exactly the hop up and exercise on vaca type. He was starting to get suspicious.) Rick was a HUGE training help (those breathing tips!) not to mention his all around wonderful encouragement. We finished the race hand in hand.

…Identify with the above?

Not a problem! You can do it!!!  Here are some tips and tricks that helped me:

A great training app:
-My personal favorite is “5k Runner” from Clear Sky Apps. At a speaking gig recently I heard some fellow survivors raving about the “Zombie, Run! 5k Training” app.

Hey, whatever works.

They are all about 8 week programs.

Whoops, you say you only have 4 weeks?  If you can run (or lope or stagger) for 5-8 minutes straight, you can start up somewhere in week 5 and be just fine.

Killer shoes:
-I’ve always been partial to New Balance (bless their hearts, they make narrows!) What do you know, they make the official Komen running shoes and some apparel too! Y’all, the shoes are awesome!

Great tunes:
-At the risk of embarrassing my almost-47-year old self in front of all the cute, hipster Millennials, here are some of my faves.

Load onto your phone, (the running apps work with players like iTunes) or a tiny player like an iPod Shuffle:

“Shambala” Rockapella
“Joy to the World” Three Dog Night
“Hey Ya” OutKast
“The Long Run” Eagles
“Hot Blooded” Foreigner
“We Will Rock You” Queen
“Don’t Stop” Fleetwood Mac
“ABC” Jackson 5
“Boogie Shoes” KC and the Sunshine Band
“Sweet Home Alabama” Lynyrd Skynyrd
“American Woman” Lenny Kravitz

That’s a sampling…I have 103 songs on the playlist. Oh, make that 104…I have to add Pharrell’s “Happy”!

Good music delivery:
-I love my in-ear Bose headphones from Sam’s Club. They have these silicone thingies that fit the inner curve of your ear (comes with three sizes) and prevent the buds from wiggling around or falling out.

Cute clothes:
-I decided last year, that no matter when or where I run, I will Pink It Up!

My favorites include (of course) Komen tees and anything from Walmart’s Danskin brand athletic line…performance is awesome and pink is always available!

I also love my Komen shoe laces that New Balance gave away at last year’s race.

Training pals:
-Train with friends, even if you do it virtually. My friend Jodi Foutch and I co-trained entirely by text for the Siloam Springs Turkey Trot last year. We traded inspiration, trash talked, and agonized together over our aging hips.

There is also a group of survivors that meets in Fayetteville to train and information about the group named The Buddy Project can be found here.  http://on.fb.me/1DfvCXn

Public commitment:
-Tell your friends, family and coworkers that you are training and get them to sponsor you!

Remember we need to raise one million dollars. Nothing like a little accountability to get you moving! It’s easy to ask 10 friends for $10, right?!

Keep your supporters updated via social media. (Yes, the training apps will do that too!)

The ultimate motivation:
-I read a quote on Pinterest recently that sums it up “Nothing will change until you decide it will.” Last year, I finally decided that I hated cancer more than I hated running. (That is a whole bunch).

Every time I want to quit on a training run, I think about seeing all those survivors at our annual RFTC picture. I think of our angel Georgia Sherrill, my BC mentor who was beloved by so many in our community. I think about my first shower after the double mastectomy when as a grown woman, my mother had to scrub me in the tub like the family dog!

I am grateful that I can run, if slowly and plenty jiggly…and I just keep going.

Survivors, you already kicked cancer. You’ve got this.

Supporters and co-survivors, your dedication inspires us!

See you at the race! (I’ll be the one in pink) 😉

Marybeth

Marybeth Cornwell Head Shot Pink Jacket

*Our Guest Blogger, Marybeth Cornwell is the Honorary Survivor Chair for the 17th Annual Komen Ozark Race for the Cure.  Marybeth is the Senior Vice President of Home for Walmart United States and just celebrated her three year cancerversary.

Our Woman Crush Wednesday, Inger Bakaric!

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Our “Woman Crush Wednesday” today is Inger Bakaric!  Inger is a one year breast cancer survivor, serves on the Komen Ozark Race for the Cure Steering Committee and is our New Balance Honorary Team Survivor!

Honorary Team New Balance was formed in 1995 to celebrate stories of survival and to honor athletes who have made a difference in the fight against breast cancer. For each Race for the Cure, the Affiliate has the opportunity to choose a local survivor to be a part of Honorary Team New Balance. These members are honored for their personal perseverance against breast cancer and dedication to raising breast cancer awareness.

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Whatever It Takes-Inger’s Story

In July 2012 I went in for my regularly scheduled mammogram. I was a healthy, active 44 year old with no family history of breast cancer. I pointed out a small bump that I had recently found, within 48 hours they confirmed that it was stage 2 breast cancer. It was very close to the skin surface so I underwent 6 rounds of chemo to shrink it away from the skin, followed by a bilateral mastectomy in January and finally reconstruction in May 2013.

One of my doctors asked me at our first meeting what I was willing to do to get rid of the cancer, after a long scary pause I said whatever it takes. Later I thought about all the things I wanted to do in my life, on the top of my list was complete a sprint triathlon. I decided that as soon as I was able to I would do it, whatever it takes. I had run a 5k but I never thought I would be able to do anything more than that. I stayed as active as I could during chemo and was able to complete a 5k right before my 5th treatment. By the end of February I was able to go to biking class and I started working on getting my strength and endurance up. By April I was training with a beginner triathlon group. It was very hard work, I cried many times upset that my body was not able to work as hard as I wanted it to. In March I was able to do a bike race, in April I was 2nd survivor in Race for the Cure 5k with my best time ever. In May my first open water swim, and in August I had reached my goal and completed 2 sprint triathlons. I realized that I was stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have since run many more 5k races, my first 10k and my first half marathon placing first in the masters division. I am currently training to compete in another half marathon and a duathlon in March.

I decided early on in my treatment that I would not give up, that I would stay positive and I would never quit, and that I would finish what I started whatever it takes. This statement got me through the chemo and the tough days ahead and I still say it to myself anytime I have a hard day. I am so very thankful to my husband Michael who was such a wonderful support for me. He was with me at every doctor appointment; he trained with me and ran by my side during every race cheering me on. I was blessed to have the help of my wonderful friend Jill who among other things sat with me through my first chemo, my daughters Lorelei and Mariana who kept me smiling and helped out whenever I needed anything, my Mom and so many other friends and family that took care of me and kept my spirits up.

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Our Race Office is Officially Open!

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As of yesterday, April 10th our Pinnacle Hills Promenade Race Office is officially open! You can now go and register at the office and pick up your race shirt and bib at the same time! (Team packets will be available for pick up starting on April 16th.) Did you already register or plan on registering online? Great! Now you just need to go and pick up your race shirt and bib from the office.

We are also offering a second race office location at NWA Mall (next to Candy Craze by the Easter Bunny) in Fayetteville for two weekends only! The hours for the race office are as follows;

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***If you registered for the competitive, timed 10K or 5K, your race packets must be picked up at the Pinnacle Hills Promenade Office in Rogers!

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Our Woman Crush Wednesday, Melanie Fitts!

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Melanie Fitts, survivor from Farmington, AR was diagnosed when she was only 24 years old after finding a knot during a self examination. With no family history and testing negative for BRCA Melanie is now working with a doctor in California who does studies on the relationship between cell phones and cancer – her lump was detected in the same spot where she carried her cell during workouts throughout college. Despite many surgeries and hours of radiation, Melanie is positive and works to help other women fight against this terrible disease. Melanie is why we race!

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Meet our Featured Survivor, Deborah Woodard!

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“This is my story”

 

My mother, sister and two cousins are breast cancer survivors along with myself. The Saturday before Mother’s Day I remember examining my breast. The next morning while getting ready for church I noticed tenderness in my left breast.  After church I felt the area and I felt a very small lump. I was in total shock, disbelief, oh my God, surely not, I hope not.  Monday morning at 8 am I called my Gynecologist and made an appointment to be seen that morning. After the breast exam I was scheduled to have a repeat mammogram the next day.  After the test, I saw a surgeon; she then ordered a needle biopsy.  Three days later I was diagnosed with very early stage 1 breast cancer. Three days later I had a lumpectomy and a lymphectomy.  The cancer was only in the lump. On June 26th I started 6 months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I see my Oncologist every 6 months for follow-up visits.  Today I’m cancer free and feel “Great”!!  Early detection and prayer is the key to my survival and recovery. I say to all women, “Take care of your body, examine your breasts and get yearly mammograms.”   – Deborah 

Meet Our Featured Survivor, Sarah!

Each week leading up to the Komen Ozark’s 16th Annual Race for the Cure, we will be highlighting a different local survivor.  Each survivor has an important story and message to tell; whether it is early detection, giving back or becoming an advocate for the cause we are so thankful for the women who are giving us an insight into their journeys.

Sarah’s Story

I found a suspicious “lump” and went to the Breast Center on April 16, 2013 for exam and biopsy.  The next day, my pathology report confirmed what I knew.  It was small, but it was cancer.  Then the whirlwind… MRI, surgeon appointments, decisions. 

 Ten days after my pathology report, April 27, Komen Ozark’s Race for the Cure was held.  I had never participated in any of their events.  But, I knew that my daughter, who was living in Fayetteville, was going.  Early that morning I woke to a text message on my phone.  There was a picture of Katie and her friend holding a pink sign with my name on it!  That’s when it all hit!  I knew that the race was to raise money for research and the many programs that Komen has developed, as well as increase awareness of breast cancer.  But, at that moment, it was personal!!  I was suddenly a part of it! 

Since that day, I have been able to participate in the “Pink Luncheon” and “Paint the Park Pink” in Fort Smith.  To me, Komen represents a huge sisterhood of brave women.  A sisterhood that is not easy to join.  A sisterhood that I am honored to be a part of!

 

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Meet Our Featured Survivor, Jennifer!

Each week leading up to the Komen Ozark’s 16th Annual Race for the Cure, we will be highlighting a different local survivor.  Each survivor has an important story and message to tell; whether it is early detection, giving back or becoming an advocate for the cause we are so thankful for the women who are giving us an insight into their journeys. 

The Journey of Jennifer GarnerImage

A journey is an act of traveling from one place to another, usually taking a long time. I call the last seven months of my life just that – a journey.   It has been full of bumps, curves and detours. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets have frequented me along the way. I have found amazing people and developed friendships and relationships that I would never trade for anything. I have laughed, I have cried and I have prayed.

My journey began in June 2013 when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 triple negative breast cancer. Like most people, I was stunned. Being only 36 years old, I had not yet had a mammogram. By miracle, I found the tumor myself. The thought of where I would be if I had not found it is unbearable to think about.

Part of my journey has involved developing a relationship with the local Susan G. Komen affiliate. They have been a light in the darkness of my journey. Their support and presence in the daily fight against breast cancer has been daily encouragement. They are committed to education and community awareness.

Most importantly for me, they have shown me that my fight never ends. After chemotherapy, I felt empty.   There was a huge void in my life. I felt like I was no longer fighting. I missed the routine, sharing time with other cancer patients and the feeling that I was fighting. Being involved and volunteering with Susan G Komen helps fills that void. It allows the fight to continue.  It keeps the hope alive. I am committed to help spread awareness, education and support.

After searching for the “End of Road” sign, I have discovered that there is no such thing. This journey never ends. It changes directions, but never ends. I know that the road behind and in front of me has already been paved. I cannot change it, I can only embrace it. I am simply just the traveler on this journey.