Link to Pink: Kris Altiere
It still amazes me how one phone call and four words can forever change your life. On March 9, 2010 a little after 9:30 AM my phone rang, it was my doctor, I could tell she didn’t want to tell me on the phone, but knew that she needed to.
I was a 35-year-old single mom to a beautiful 2-year-old little girl. I was in the midst of training for my first 1/2 Ironman Distance Triathlon that was only 8 weeks away. I was in the best shape of my life. I had no family history of breast cancer.
I answered the phone and she said, “You have breast cancer.”
I’m not sure how much I heard after that. The first thing that went through my mind was the thought that I may not ever see my daughter grow up and then the second thing that went through my mind was that there was no way I was going to let anything take that away from me.
I had recently begun dating again and was only a few weeks into a new relationship when he found the lump on my breast and encouraged me to go to the doctor. I don’t think either of us thought things would turn out the way they did.
I remember calling him the day I got the results; he was out of town for work. I had to tell him over the phone. I told him that I would understand if he wanted to move on to date other people and I would always remain his friend. He told me that there was no way he was going anywhere.
Throughout treatment there were many things I was faced. As a young woman with breast cancer, one was that my chance of having children again was greatly diminished. I was told that it was likely that the chemo would put me into early menopause therefore leaving me infertile.
The man I was dating at the time did not have any kids of his own, but wanted them. It was important to him, so I once again told him I would understand if he left. Once again he refused to go.
People that know me know that I am a very strong, determined and confident woman. I knew there was no way having breast cancer was going to change that. Before I even knew the stage of my breast cancer I decided I was going to have a double mastectomy. There was never a doubt in my mind that that was the right thing to do.
Once we found out it was Stage 2, I was given other options, but to me the fact that I had a more rare and aggressive breast cancer referred to as Triple Negative I knew my choice was still the right one.
I am not the girl who gets sick, I am the girl who runs marathons, swims, bikes and does triathlons. I have no history of breast cancer in my family, but there it was and I was going to do everything I could to make sure it never came back.
I had my surgery April 1, 2010 and the weekend before my surgery I ran my first 1/2 marathon. I ran the Georgia ING 1/2 Marathon in downtown Atlanta. I finished in 1:56. I ran that day with so much going through my head that I barely remember putting one foot in front of the other.
As I reached the finish line I knew running and staying active was what was going to get me through my surgery, and the 16 rounds of Chemo I was going to be faced with over the course of the year. I knew at that moment everything was going to be fine.
Running and staying active was my escape.
I continued to run and train several times a week throughout my treatment. I even had my oncologist tell me that I inspired him to begin running again. He said if I could go run 6 miles after a chemo session then he had no excuses.
I continued to compete in many running events such as 5ks, 10ks and triathlons, including the Iron Girl Triathlon just a few days after my hair fell out and the Peachtree Road Race just a few weeks later.
While going through chemo I trained and raised money for numerous charities such as TNT. Four days after chemo ended I ran the 1/2 marathon I trained for during my treatment. My time that day was 2:24 a far cry from the 1:56 I had gotten earlier in the year, but the sense of accomplishment I felt that day to know I had survived and nothing was going to stop me was amazing.
My life has been amazing since my diagnosis. In a way I feel like my diagnosis has given my life a bit more clarity. When you are faced with something that can kill you the little things no longer seem to be so bad. You are just happy to be here every day and you realize the things that truly matter.
The man I had been dating when diagnosed is now my husband.
In 2011 I celebrated my first anniversary of survivorship by competing in seven half marathons and four triathlons, one of which was the 1/2 Ironman I had been training for when I was first diagnosed. I not only finished that race, but did it while raising money for a charity that provides support to young adults facing cancer. The day I crossed that finish line was only 11 months after my last chemo treatment.
A few weeks later my husband and I found out we were pregnant with twins who were born the following June. Since 2011 I have lost count as to how many events I have competed in. I continue to strive to beat myself in every race I compete in. I have set a new personal best time in nearly every event I have completed, my fastest half marathon time now 1 hour and 45 minutes. I have earned several 1st place finishes this year.
It has been a long road, but I have never once felt as though I had a reason to stop living my life. I never once believed that I could not do anything I wanted. I never once let cancer get the best of me. I truly believe that is why I am still here nearly five years later.
This year on November 7 I will celebrate the biggest “Cancerversary” to date. I will celebrate five years cancer free.
Every year since its inception the Rock and Roll Savannah 1/2 Marathon has been how I honored this special day. This year it’s the 5th year the race has been in the city, so while they celebrate five years running I will celebrate 5 years living and surviving by doing my first full marathon.
I hope that my story inspires those newly diagnosed with breast cancer to realize that not everything you hear is the truth, and that not everything is out of your control. I want them to know they can still live their lives as they always dreamed. I hope it’s people like me that help create awareness that breast cancer can affect anyone, healthy or not, young or old despite their family history or their health.
When was your last mammogram?
Early detection saves lives. Schedule your mammogram today and encourage others to do the same. Breast screenings only take a few moments. A few moments may save a life.
Edith Sanford Breast Center Mission Statement: The mission of the Edith Sanford Breast Foundation is to unlock each woman’s genetic code, advance today’s prevention and treatment, and end breast cancer for future generations. We are committed to conducting groundbreaking research to find cures faster.
Please join us, and help create a tomorrow where no more of our loved ones are lost to this disease.