Cancer should live in history books, not in the bodies of people we love


Hi! My name is Kierstin and I am the Traffic Manager for WSOC-TV. When I first heard that a group of co-workers were forming Team 9/64 to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer this October, I immediately thought, “Awesome! That’s a GREAT cause, I’d love to join the team.” Mind you, this was before I had ANY idea of what the Walk actually entailed.

“Excuse me? Did you say TWO days?!?! Did you just say FORTY miles?!?!? Hmmmm….” I have never actually walked 40 miles in 2 days, but I’m pretty sure I can do it. I’m not crazy about being away from my husband and two young kids and missing any extracurricular activities (read, fun) they may have going on that weekend, but I’m pretty sure I can do it. I’m terrified of being responsible for my portion of the fundraising, but I’m pretty sure I can do that too.

I’m pretty sure I can do it because I have seen first-hand how cancer affects both the patients going through the process as well as the family and friends around them. And I have seen how important it is to pay attention to your body and how taking action -- no matter how scared you are -- can save lives. How early detection and research saves lives. My brother-in-law is currently at Vanderbilt battling leukemia. I’m pretty sure walking 40 miles is easier than that.

When I was in college, my Dad died of lung cancer. Actually, they think it started as lung cancer, but by the time he passed away, it had spread throughout his body. And we, his family, had no idea he was even sick. He went to the doctor for the first time in March 1993 because he had a sore on his foot that wouldn’t go away and he died on April 19, 1993. He was 43 years old.

Breast cancer was on my radar, but it had yet to touch me personally. As the years passed, slowly it inched closer. I heard that the mom of a dear friend from high school lost her long, hard-fought battle with breast cancer at 48. Another dear friend’s older sister successfully won her fight and was cancer-free. Still it stayed on the periphery….I did not SEE it or hear about it firsthand. Sure, I got yearly breast-exams from my doctor and randomly did self-checks. I KNEW about it, I READ the statistics, I was INFORMED, right?

And then suddenly, I had a new co-worker who was a breast cancer survivor and I listened to her story and I saw the permanent marks the treatment left on her skin and I heard how if affected her life and the lives of her children. It was getting closer…..

Not long after that, over a several year period, I watched two different co-workers be diagnosed with breast cancer. Watched them deal with the diagnosis and treatment emotionally AND physically. Both of them were initially successful, but sadly, Cheryl’s cancer returned in a different area. SHE FOUGHT SO HARD. SHE DID EVERYTHING RIGHT. IT WAS SO UNFAIR. WHY DID SHE HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS AGAIN?!? Her memorial service was truly beautiful, but so very sad. She had touched so many people throughout her life and would be missed so very much.

I had felt some decent punches from breast cancer, but even after feeling that pain, in my mind, it was still something “older” women dealt with. It was totally irrelevant that I, myself, was aging and getting closer to whatever “older” was. I had only seen it in a different generation than my own. And then it happened.

On May 29, 2008 I got an email from Marcie, one of my oldest, dearest childhood friends, saying that she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. WHAT?!?! How could that be?!? She’s only 36 years old! I just saw her last week and she looked FINE! I KNOW her. She’s my FRIEND. She’s MY age.

Her story is really amazing. One day after getting out of the shower, she just happened to feel a lump. She wasn’t even doing a breast exam. When she went to the doctor and had a mammogram, it showed NOTHING. Her breasts were so dense, if she had not found the lump, the cancer would have gone undetected. She and her doctor acted quickly and decisively. She had surgery that summer and finished her chemotherapy that fall. She went through the pain of surgery and reconstruction, lost her hair, wore a wig, ditched the wig and was beautiful. This past August I was able to watch her walk down the aisle to marry her longtime love and begin a new chapter in her life.  Next month it will be five years since her diagnosis and she is now cancer-free.

The outcome of any cancer diagnosis in 2013 is A LOT better than it was in 1993. Even though breast cancer especially is now very survivable, we still have a long way to go. It is only through research and the funding of that research can we hope to keep having happy outcomes like that of my dear childhood friend. Only through research can we hope to one day live in a cancer-free world.

Please help us fund more research by donating here so that cancer is something that lives in history books, not in the bodies of the people we love.

I’m pretty sure we can do it!