Models of Courage

TRACY REPPEN

Founding Fly Girl and Breast Cancer Ass Kicker

 

Why I am Making Strides

Like so many others, breast cancer is a very personal cause for me. Together with my community, I’m working toward that day. It gives me the chance to make a difference and to honor those touched by breast cancer by raising funds for groundbreaking research, and services for people dealing with breast cancer.  I believe that there will come a day where the pain caused by breast cancer is a thing of the past. And until it arrives, I’m walking to inspire hope to those facing the disease and raising money for the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event to help save lives from breast cancer.  I hope you’ll consider signing up too.

Why I Support the American Cancer Society

Every day, the American Cancer Society helps people take steps to reduce their risk of breast cancer or find it early when it is easiest to treat. They provide free information and services when and where people need it throughout their journey to get well. They are investing in innovative research to find, prevent, and treat breast cancer. 

I have signed up to walk and fundraise for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. I hope you will consider joining my team and/or making a donation in support of my efforts. 

Together, we can make a difference.

CORINNE GAFFKE MCKEAG

Fly Girl Member and

Breast Cancer Ass Kicker

 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, 2011 just a few days after Mother’s day.  I was 39 years old with a 9-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl.  I was a working mom, who didn’t eat very well, didn’t make the time to work out, and didn’t make the efforts to have regular date nights or night out with the girls.  I’m surprised that I even made the time to go to my yearly OB/GYN appointment, and even more surprised that I took the initiative to have a mammogram done before I turned 40. But I did. And this would be my first, and my last mammogram.

 

I had my mammogram in April and was told to not be surprised if I was asked to come back, as this was common with first time mammogram patients and that 80%+ of follow ups tests come back as normal. However, as I was being told this, I am reading online and in the doctor’s office that 1 in 12 women are diagnosed with breast cancer.  I recall it being 1 in 12 bc they called a group of women at the same time to come into the changing area and prep for further testing, and there were 12 women. And I kept thinking “1 of us are going to get bad news today—is it me?”   

 

I had a follow up US and a biopsy was done on my left breast in 3 areas and on my right in 2.  I felt the room getting quiet and tense as a Radiologist was brought in.  I suspected then. And I really knew something was wrong, when the doctor said to me “this is the hardest part—the waiting. We will call you tomorrow afternoon”.

 

I went to work, walked around all day in a fog, barely speaking in meetings, completely disconnected.  As promised they did call as I was driving and on my way home. I pulled over and received the news:  Grade 1, stage 1 ILC breast cancer in the left breast that was hormone positive and HER negative.  I didn’t know what this meant, but wrote it down, drove home and told my husband.  I didn’t tell the kids –I couldn’t look at them.  I quickly made follow u appointments with my breast surgeon, MRI, more genetic testing, plastic surgeon and the list of contacts, referrals, names, dates,  times just kept growing. And I have to say—this was the hardest part.  Getting your team and your plan together while still processing what is going on with you health wise, trying to be strong for your family and be “normal” or at least act like it—is one of the toughest things that I have ever had to do.

 

I learned through the testing that there was no indication of cancer cells in the nodes-and that’s a good thing. With early stage breast cancers and no node activity, recent studies have shown that chemo provides little to no benefit or difference.  However at the time that I was diagnosed this study was being conducted, and no results were found.  I had multiple professional opinions and 3 of them said no chemo while 1 said yes to chemo due to my age.  I did not have the option of a lumpectomy due to my breast size (barely a B cup) and ILC cancer doesn’t make a lump, it makes a strand, and a mastectomy was my only option. It was up to me to get just the left breast removed, or both. I opted for both as my oncologist and breast surgeon told me that ILC likes to return in about 10 years. I told them I’m not coming back at 49. Take them both.  I did opt for reconstruction, and at this time, this process took about 6-8 months.  Now, I understand that the reconstruction process is quicker or can be.   

 

Now I mentioned earlier that putting your plan together while trying to keep it together was difficult. But, the hardest thing that I had to do, harder than the surgery, cleaning the drains, waiting to hear back that the original pathology of grade 1/stage 1 still holds, harder than waiting to hear/confirm that there is no activity in the nodes post-surgery, harder than trying to simple things like raise your arms normally for a month, and harder than worrying that your partner or spouse will be so grossed out or disgusted by your “new” breasts. The hardest thing was having to look into the big brown eyes of your children and telling them you have cancer. I still am haunted by their “NO!!” screams and tears running down their faces.  And it’s this that made me change everything—and I mean just about everything I was doing.

 

I did the following:  started eating right and making healthy meals at home, taking time out for myself and saying “no” to things that didn’t matter to me or my kids.  I found a work-life balance when there wasn’t one before. I made time to re-connect with friends that I hadn’t seen in years. And I realized I needed to start working out. So I did do something kinda nuts—I had never run before, and signed up for my first 5K in the fall. And then did a couple more, then my kids did 5Ks with me, and then we were doing 1 a month as a family.  And I don’t know how or why, but I signed up for the Chicago Marathon.  And I completed it within 16 months of my mastectomy.  

 

Cancer sucks—it really truly does.  But I wasn’t going to let it take the wheel. And I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me that I was “sick”. If you are going through this, or supporting a loved one that is, my advice is---find that inner grit, and fire and find a positive focus. It’s easy to dark and ugly with cancer.   Don’t. I read this and this has always stayed with me and helped me on my journey;( I added in “especially your children”) “To convince others, especially your children, that to live well in spite of pain, fatigue, fear and darkness, is to transcend them.  By doing so you help create something lighter, better and greater.”  

MARGE JOHNSON

Fly Girl Member and

Breast Cancer Ass Kicker

 

I was diagnosed in the Spring of  2005 when I was 49 years old. My cancer was contain in one of my ducts, so I was very blessed that I did not have to go thru Chemo. They did a lumpectomy and 9 weeks of radiation. Can't say I had a lot of side effects except for I got skin cancer in the area they did the radiation a few years ago. Benefits were I found out how many good friends I have! I am Blessed!

CAROLYN MORRIS

Fly Girl Member and

Breast Cancer Ass Kicker

31 years old with a lump.

Working in a Cancer center, I was always hyper aware of symptoms of cancer.  You never think it will happen to you.  I stopped one of my colleagues to do a breast exam after I ignored my lump for about a month.  October 25 2017 was the day I found out that I was 31 years old and had Breast Cancer.  Not only Breast Cancer, but two different breast cancers in one breast, and it had spread to my lymph nodes.

I couldn’t cry, all I could do was get into fight mode.  And that’s what I did.  Fought through 4 months of chemotherapy- spent Thanksgiving, my 32nd birthday, Christmas and New Year’s bald and sick, then came surgery.  Double Mastectomy.  Then months of Radiation.  All to come out in the end with a Complete Response to all treatment. Officially Cancer Free.

REGINA WIEDLIN

Fly Girl Instructor and

Breast Cancer Ass Kicker

When I  was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in 2001 my youngest daughter was one year old and my oldest was four. I was blindsided by my diagnosis, breast cancer didn't run in our family, I had maintained a healthy lifestyle, didn't smoke, rarely drank and was physically fit and active. I practiced yoga. This absolutely came out of left field. It is a devastating diagnosis for anyone and being the mother of three young girls, I was truly shaken to my core, worried sick about my future and my daughter's future. I was scared.

 

It took many years to get past the fear of recurrence, every little cough, ache, pain, became suspect, certain that the cancer had returned. I spent countless hours in doctors offices, in treatment and follow-ups and am lucky to say I stayed healthy throughout. I am grateful to say that that was a long time ago and as difficult as it was at the time, constantly worried, always scared by anything unusual going on with my body, I eventually moved forward and have come to a place where I now, rarely think of my cancer.

 

I am positive, I feel healthy, I am strong and I am fit. Cancer changed my perspective and it changed my body but it made me grateful for every day I have. I am thankful for my survival and I recognize that I am one of the lucky ones. We all want to be survivors.

 

Yoga helps to keep me measured and even keeled, it has kept m strong physically, mentally and emotionally. It helps me keep my calm. I'm in a better place now then I've ever been. I'm lucky. There are no guarantees, we must make the most of the time we have...and I do. 
 

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