Hitting the Five-Mile Mark

The first day I sat on the stationary bike at the gym I thought to myself, “Imagine how cool it would be if I could ride five miles on this thing.” And, I was serious … that would be so cool!

So day after day, I went to the gym, and tried to hit that mark in 20 minutes. Obviously, if I gave myself ALL DAY I could reach five miles, but I wanted to do it in 20 minutes.

First, I started at level one … and I thought I was going to die!!! My legs burned, and my knees ached. But then a few days later, I was bored at level one and moved to level three. Then, a few days after that, I reached level five.

Within a couple of weeks, I felt comfortable playing around with the levels and went up to level 10 for a few minutes, before dropping back to level five, as though I were on a hill. I think the words that came out of my mouth were, “You have to be kidding!” The machine suddenly lost its free-spinning feel and felt more like a rock tied to my feet as I climbed that virtual level-10 hill. But even then … I didn’t get to five miles.

And then it happened. I decided to do the “random hill” setting for my 20-minute ride. I was not as surprised when the machine went into hill mode this time and managed to keep my words of dislike inside, so as to not disturb the other people in the gym. I put on my inspirational music, thought about the young women I know fighting breast cancer, and powered myself up those virtual hills … And guess what happened? I rode 7.25 miles in 20 minutes!!!

OH MY GOD!!! I think I even gasped out loud when I realized what I had accomplished.

Now, I know that 7.25 miles is a far cry from 200 miles, which is my goal, and I am on a stationary bike. But, hey, I am proud of myself … and that is worth celebrating.

The skinny cancer girl with no muscles … is getting the hang of this workout thing … WATCH OUT!!!

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Categories: Taking my Body Back

Speak Up and Make a Difference

YSC at the National Breast Cancer Coalition Advocate SummitWhat is an “advocate”? This word has a different meaning to everyone. I became familiar with the term at the national Sierra Club, where I worked for many years. I also learned the importance of using your voice and democratic right to hold your elected officials accountable. Sound easy? Have you ever tried it?

Have you ever been to your state capital and asked to meet with your Representative that you elected? Have you ever been to the U.S. Capitol and talked to your members of Congress about an issue that’s important to you? Most of you I imagine will say, “no,” and my question to you is “why not?” Really, why have you never spoken with the person you elected? As a society, why do we hold our local grocery cashier more accountable to give us the correct change for a pack of gum than we do the people we elected to create the laws that govern us?

After being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36, I transitioned my career from environmental causes to the breast cancer space. So, it seemed only natural for me to participate in this past weekend’s National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) Advocate Summit in Washington, D.C. (#NBCCSummit)

The NBCC truly is a coalition; it is made up of breast cancer groups from all over the country, which allows them to come together as one united voice to end breast cancer. YSC is a strong member of the NBCC. It is critical that we continue our active participation to ensure that the voice of every young woman with breast cancer is being heard.

Awareness is important. Every day of my life is dedicated to raising awareness. But sometimes you just need to say: “This needs to stop!!! No more women should die!!!” That’s what this past weekend was all about.

Who in the world would not be for ending breast cancer, right? Well, I bet you didn’t know that, right now, there’s a bill under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives called the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act.

This bill has NO money attached to it. It’s a simple request to set up a committee to ensure we’re able to end breast cancer within the next eight years. In my wildest dreams, I cannot imagine how someone would be unwilling to back this, but, after spending a day on Capitol Hill, it became obvious to me that not all the members of Congress are willing to support women affected by breast cancer and get behind this initiative to end breast cancer by 2020. Amazing!

We’re all frustrated with what’s happening in Washington these days — on so many levels. However, it’s important that we do not let that frustration prohibit or distract us from participating. It’s now more crucial than ever to speak up. Call your Representative or Senator and make sure he or she knows you’re watching and not afraid to hold him or her accountable.

It made me proud to represent YSC on behalf of NBCC this week. I feel energized and inspired to raise my voice on behalf of all young women affected by breast cancer. But, I alone am not loud enough … I need all of you to join me!!!

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Dream Big

Dream BigThe only place I still feel young and “normal” is in my dreams. This is the best way I feel I can describe my experience with breast cancer as a young woman.

Every morning as I wake up and remember that this has happened to me, I begin my fight against the pain and the sensation of being 85 years old. That is cancer to me.

Speaking of dreams, this morning I dreamt I was riding a bike. And, I think I can say with 100% certainty that I have NEVER dreamt about riding a bike. Even in my subconscious, my brain couldn’t think that was possible. I might dream of childhood friends flying through space while reading a book and talking to pink elephants — that would be normal in a dream. But, me on a bike? It is too far-fetched.

But not last night. I have thought enough about riding Tour de Pink® that I have convinced my subconscious that it’s possible.

And then I woke up … and my body ached and hurt like it does every morning. Thank God cancer has not followed me to my dreams. So … deep breath … some stretching … a positive attitude … and make some coffee. I can do this … and I will!!!

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Categories: Taking my Body Back

But I Don’t Even Like Bikes

YSC CEO BlogI don’t even like bikes. I never learned to respect them and always felt like they didn’t respect me. So why in the world would I decide to ride 200 miles from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. on a bike?

Actually, my decision has nothing to do with bikes or wanting to take part in the swim/run/bike triathlon craze that so many people I know are in. I am doing this because of cancer.

One of the first things my oncologist told me after my bilateral mastectomy was that I had to start exercising. I rolled my eyes at her. Yeah, yeah I know, exercising is good for you. Whatever. I was more focused on trying to get my life back to “normal” after having my sense of normalcy ripped away from me with a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 36.

During the next year, doctor after doctor, and friend after friend told me I should start exercising. I ignored them with determination. I remember telling a friend at one point, “If one more person tells me to exercise I am going to scream.”

For me, that first year was about getting my life back to normal — the way it was before. I never exercised before — why would I start now? I also had no idea what type of exercise to do. I hated riding bikes, the gym sounded like a pain, and running was boring. Yoga was suggested often, but it is such a scene in NYC and I didn’t care to sit in a room with a bunch of strangers while I hot flashed.

As I completed my first year of cancer, I took a close look at myself. I weighed my success in getting back to normal and realized I had failed. The hard realization that I had to find a new normal was hard to swallow. My body had become so weak from all the surgeries that I was finding it hard to walk up a flight of stairs.

Crap. My doctor was right. Now what?

This past fall, as I was celebrating my first year of cancer behind me — I had the unique pleasure of attending YSC’s Tour de Pink (TdP) bike rides as a spectator. Founded by YSC in 2004, our Tour de Pink® events present an opportunity for survivors and supporters alike to come together to raise awareness and money for the more than 250,000 young women living in the U.S. today who were diagnosed with breast cancer before their 41st birthday.

My job as CEO includes attending these events, and, while I felt eager to support the riders in any way I could, I never had any intention of doing the rides myself.

The East Coast ride, which took place from September 23–25, 2011, was my first TdP as a spectator and I was overwhelmed with the power of the event. The community of supporters and survivors was incredible, but deep down I knew it wasn’t for me.

A few weeks later I went out to California for the October 14–16 West Coast ride.

Maybe it’s because I’m from California. Maybe it was because I was physically in such bad shape and getting fed up with my body. Or maybe it was because it was such an outrageous idea, at that ride I began to think …. “Maybe I can do this.”

So one month later, after careful consideration, I made a commitment to take my body back from cancer and join my fellow survivors and supporters in the 2012 Tour de Pink challenge.

I have a long way to go, since I can’t walk up a flight of stairs without exhaustion. But one thing I am is a fighter and I have chosen my weapon. So, watch out cancer — I’m pissed off and coming to get you!!!

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Categories: Taking my Body Back