I do not consider myself a survivor. I am running toward survival.
It was October and I was enjoying a girls’ weekend in Virginia Beach. We were staying at the Oceanfront. I forgot that I had signed up my family for the Susan G. Komen 5K that same weekend. I had just finished running my first ever half marathon. I fell in love with running and had already signed up for the Disney half marathon in January, so this 5K was right in line with my training plan. I was going to have to convince the girls to participate too.
I mentioned it, and they were all for it! Then we heard Kelly crying in the bathroom. Her mom had died of breast cancer. We all hugged. We ran or walked that day in memory of her mother.
We finished the race – said hello to my family and started running back toward our hotel. It was windy and so cold. My friend Cip hollered out “Hey! Come feel this boob!” After pretty much every man at the beach whipped their heads around. I walked over to Cip and saw there was a breast exam display. The gal showed us how to properly do a breast exam. We were all surprised at how hard you actually had to press to find the lump. Good stuff! It’s Bloody Mary and Mimosa time!
Fast forward to June. In my shower as I did my breast self-exam with the card reminder I got from the race, I felt it. Hmmm. I thought it must be a pimple.
But, I knew it was not.
Two days later, I was driving down the street past the OB and made an appointment for the following week, the day we were leaving for a trip to Baltimore to see my beloved Orioles play baseball. I saw the PA, and she said she felt the same thing on the left side that she felt on the right. I disagreed. I took her hand and placed in on what I felt. She said, “Okay, I will make an appointment for you to follow up after your vacation.” I asked if it was to ease her mind or mine. She said it was to provide me with relief.
I went the following Monday for an ultrasound. They took me right from that test to a mammogram. People that went after me were told they could leave. I was not. I knew.
I was scheduled for my appointment with a surgeon. His words to me were “On paper, you are a healthy 34 year old woman that runs and works out. I am sure this is nothing, but let’s just be sure. We could do a biopsy and send for results, but let’s just go ahead and cut out what we see.” I agreed.
Two weeks later, I got up and ran 10 miles and headed in for the surgery. Before they wheeled me back he said, as soon as I complete your surgery, I will bring your family back and update them. I said great, but I have three questions:
- How soon can I run after surgery? He laughed and said to give it two days and you can run.
- I leave for my girls trip Friday, this is not going to delay that, right?
- Do you ever get in there and just know it’s cancer without sending it to a lab? He said, “Yes, rarely, but sometimes.” I said, “okay, let’s do this.”
I came out of surgery, and my family came back. I was groggy, but immediately asked them what the doctor said. They looked at each other and said neither of them talked to the doctor. I was confused. I said again, “but he said as soon as he was finished he was going to come out and talk to you. For the first time, I was worried.”
Dr. Clifford then walked in. Looked at my family and said “Kim we need to talk, do you want them in here?” I said yes. He said, “Okay, well, you have cancer.”
My mind did not wander to the emotional side. I stayed focused on HOW do we get rid of it. I knew how I would get THROUGH it, but how do we get rid of it. The decision was mastectomy.
So … I ran.
I was in the middle of training for my second half marathon. I was anxious for the surgery date. I had surgeons, reconstructive surgeons and oncologists. The waiting game was the hardest part. Scheduling TWO surgeons on the same day in the summer was nearly impossible. I was at the reconstructive surgeon’s office for my appointment and he said, “Oh, I think we have the date for surgery nailed down.” He was briefly called out of the room so I opened my chart.
August 25, 2005 was the date. My half marathon was September 4, 2005. Ten days after the surgery.
Cancer was not going to stop me. So many thought I was crazy. I had a dear friend, Bob, said, “No one knows you better than you. You will know what is right.” My reconstructive surgeon called me Saturday morning – the race was Sunday. He said, “Do you have all your medicine.” I said, “Yes, why?” He said, “because I want to make sure you have your pain meds for your big race.” I said, “So you are okay with this.” He said, “Take two pain pills and run.”
I ran that race.
Labor Day the general surgeon called the house. I was surprised. He had left a message to call him. I did. He said that he went in to get the results of the tests they had run. My tumor was small barely a centimeter. Oddly though I had 3 positive lymph nodes.
Next step … Chemotherapy.
And I ran.
And I ran.
I got Chemo every other Monday from October to January.
Monday is a run day. Patients are not allowed to drive after chemo so when I got picked up, I always had my running shoes in the car. I changed into my running shoes, got home, got out of the car….
And I ran.
Sometimes two miles and others days I ran six miles. Cancer was not going to dictate or control me.
I never missed what I dubbed a “chemo run” I battled on my terms. In my way, I wasn’t running away. I was running the devil away. With every run and every exhale, I felt like I was blowing out the poison.
It’s been 12 years, and I still run. I continue to fight with every step, every run, and every race. I do not consider myself a survivor. I am running toward survival.
….and so I run.
– Kim Moss, Norfolk VA