Friday, March 26, 2010

The youngest survivor I know...

As you might guess, in my work as a Field Coordinator for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, I am lucky to meet so many amazing women and men who are breast cancer survivors. Many of them are the women you would expect. Women in their 50s and 60s - or even older. But some of them are the people you might least expect.

Many of my co-workers are young suvivors. One of them was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer when she was only 21 years old. Her story is shocking, heart-wrenching, inspiring and filled with hope.

Bridget faces breast cancer with more courage, grace, elegance, determination, and frankly more guts than anyone I have ever met. I am so thankful to know her. There is a link to her full blog on the right hand side of my page. I really encourage you to read it... but for now, here is Bridget's story in her own words.

Five years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 21 years old and had graduated from college just one week before. I had no family history of the disease. Because of my young age and low hereditary risk, no one took the growing lump in my left breast seriously. I was not sent for a mammogram for six months after initially finding my lump.

By the time I was diagnosed on June 3, 2005, the cancer had left my breast and taken over my body. I had a 3 centimeter tumor in my liver. My doctors gave me a 16% chance of celebrating my 30th birthday.

At the time, I refused to believe those statistics, but I realize now what those doctors meant. For a year I went through chemo and lost my hair, I had surgery and radiation that left me forever scarred. I did what the doctor's told me and I did so expecting to beat the disease and give those doctors a big middle finger on my 30th birthday. But the past five years have changed me.

Since 2005, I have had 4 recurrences. The drugs and the surgeries will work for a time, and then one day the world of love and normalcy that I work so hard to create crashes around me. I get scared, my whole family gets scared, and I have to again face more tests, more needles, more surgery and scars.

Last year, just two weeks after I got engaged to the man who has stood behind me through everything, I was told my cancer had returned. I can not forget this cancer, even when the fairy tale says I should get a break. I had to schedule wedding dress fittings around surgery appointments. I planned my wedding from the chemo chair and I finished therapy just three weeks before walking down the aisle.

Then again the fairy tale refused to go as expected. After returning from my honeymoon and hoping for a few years of quiet wedded bliss, I was diagnosed again in October with another recurrence. I have spent the last few months having surgery and enrolling in clinical trials. The doctors have told me that even after extensive surgery and therapy, they expect the cancer to return. We just don't know when.

That is what it means to live in a world without a cure. The doctors do the best they can, and then we all hope and pray and wait and watch.

My husband and I are done with hoping and praying. We are taking action. I feel like I am just barely one step ahead of this cancer. I need to stay one step ahead.

From October 8-10th, 2010 Alex and I will be walking 60 miles to end breast cancer forever in the Komen Washington, DC 3-Day for the Cure. I can not tell you how much it will mean to cross the finish line in our Nation's Capital with Alex by my side.

I am taking this fight into my own hands. I may not be able to save my life, but I may be able to find a cure before one of my best friends develops this horrible disease.

I walk for my friend and co-worker, Bridget Spence!

1 comment:

Marlene MacPherson said...

Wow both of your stories are truly inspirational. I am a stage three breast cancer survivor and I got diagnosed in my 40's I cannot imagine how hard it is is in your 20's. Out of treatment I have launched a new cooking show Marlene's Meal Makeovers. I would really appreciate any feedback you may have my website is and my blog is Best Health and Wishes to you both!