I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989 when I was 30 and lost both breasts, followed by six months of aggressive chemotherapy. Seven years later, at 37, I was in for a regular check-up and after a bone marrow biopsy, I was told that 98 percent of my plasma cells were cancer and that I had six months to live, that I had a rare cancer called multiple myeloma. I was hospitalized at once and I lost everything. From 1995 to 1998 I was on high-dose chemo therapy and had two bone marrow transplants back to back. My life was over, as I knew it. I worked hard for six years to finish court reporting school and being a single mother of one daughter. My little girl was only five when my hair fell out the first time. All she knew was her mommy was going to die. I have lost too many good friends to cancer. I had no medical insurance and fought for everything I could get. Several doctors inteamed together and treated me for free, getting the chemo donated to me for the breast cancer. There was Dr. Burns, Dr. Barth, Dr. Long, Dr. Harvey Heinricks, all who took care of me on their own dime. I started a cancer support called the Walking Fish Society, for young adults with cancer from 18 to 40. Why? Because people think fish don’t walk and they think we don’t live.
The doctors are not sure why I am alive today. I am in the 3% survivorship of my diagnosis. I had five years of interferon and 13 years of monthly Zometa, which they are now discovering can cause spontaneous femur fractures.
I had just ordered a new bike for Sea Otter in 2009 and my leg started hurting on my left femur. They could not find out what was wrong. After lots of tests, they said the multiple myeloma was back. Right before a scheduled surgery, they changed their mind and said that it was a mistake. They said maybe I have a stress fracture from trauma and there was nothing they could do. (that trauma was from a mt bike crash) Zometa is a drug that won’t allow your bones to heal. I have been off that drug since March of 2009.
In June of 2009, I was visiting a friend out of town. Somebody knocked at the door. I answered it and my dog run out. The man at the door was very drunk and would not move out of my way. As I stepped around him, I felt something strange and my body just froze in the doorway. Then I could hear it. I said, “Oh my God, I think my leg is breaking”
And it did. My femur snapped in half. 15 hours in the ER – months of recovery, nursing home and painful therapy and the titanium rod on my leg, I got back on my bike!
A friend of mine is Colette McFadden and she rode the Vision Quest in my honor, when the doctors said the cancer had returned. My goal and dream is to finish Counting Coup on my birthday on April 7, 2012.