Surviving Breast Cancer in Your Twenties

By: Kathleen Brennan

Having cancer has completely changed my life. I was in the prime of my life really having just graduated college and wanting to be independent and have a job like all of my other friends. I was only 23!! How did I have breast cancer!? I’ve had so many nights of the “why me” mourning, but have gotten better with dealing with it with time. I’ve tried to live my life as normal as possible, but it’s hard. It was hard when all of my friends wanted to go out and drink and I didn’t even have the energy to get off the couch. 


In November 2014, my gynecologist found a lump in my breast, so I had a breast ultrasound done to check it. The ultrasound technician told me that there were actually three “masses” and that they were simply cysts, then told me to get checked again in 6 months. I graduated from TCU in December of 2014 and moved back home to Austin while I searched for a job.

In January, I could feel that the lumps had grown so I went in for another ultrasound. They had in fact grown, but the technician told me that they were 99.9% benign, however she referred me to a surgeon if I wanted to have them removed. They kind of hurt a little, so I told my mom that I just wanted get them taken out while I was still on their insurance!

I went in for surgery on Monday, March 30, 2015. Two days later, my surgeon called me and told me that he had gotten the pathology report back and that he was completely shocked. It was April Fool’s Day, so I thought he was kidding when he told me that the tumors were cancerous. When I knew he wasn’t joking, my heart dropped and I immediately went into shock. I was so upset and so terrified. I remember just balling crying for days.

I soon found out that the breast cancer I had was Stage IIIC Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, HER2+ and ER/PR-. The biggest tumor was about 2 inches large and it had spread to a lymph node in my armpit area. I was set to receive 6 rounds of chemo every three weeks, followed by Herceptin every three weeks for a year.

I started chemo on April 27, 2015 and had to shave my head (wahhhh) exactly 2 weeks later because it started falling out. That was so hard for me. I never thought I would go out in public bald, but I only wore my wig once before I decided it was weird and too hot. And I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and told me they thought I was beautiful bald and it just made me feel so good when I was feeling so bad.

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Kathleen after each chemo treatment.

I had my last chemo on August 10th, followed by a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction with tissue expanders on September 8th. I was so upset to lose my boobs, especially since I only just turned 24. It’s not freakin’ fair!!! My pathology report came back two days after my mastectomy and my surgeon was finally able to tell me that I was cancer free!!!! Hallelujah. In February 2016 I had my tissue expanders replaced for my implants and I love them! It’s nice not to have to wear a bra and be perky 😉 gotta look at all the positives!! I finally got my port taken out a couple weeks ago and that is a great feeling!


Right now, I still live at home with my parents. I got my first full-time job as a marketing coordinator at a commercial real estate firm here in Austin, and it finally feels like I’m back to a normal life. I also started eating a lot healthier and my family has as well which is a huge plus. My mom and I make smoothies almost every morning with greens and fruit and power foods and I’ve completed cut out processed foods and limited my meat consumption. I love to cook so we are always trying out new recipes.

Kathleen with mom

Kathleen and her mother after her last chemo treatment.

Having cancer has also led me to meet so many people. I have such a great support system with my friends and family, but also the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls and BCRC. They have been so helpful in answering questions I had or still have or just being there to talk to me because they know what I’ve gone through and what I’m going through. I met so many people who saw my head when I was bald or seen my Port and tell me they are survivors too and we have a moment of connection and understanding and it is a really great feeling, knowing I’m not alone. This journey is hard, unexpected and unpredictable, but I’m gonna fight, and I’m gonna win!!!

Lydia Hopper, Race Chair #IAmKomenAustin

By: Lydia Hopper

The 2016 Race for the Cure is in full swing right now!  Everyone I talk to is excited about Race this year.  Teams are being created, companies are working on creating some fun competitions for employees-everyone is ready to get started! (Register here)

This year is an exciting year again for Race. We are happy to announce that the Race will take place on September 25th this year!  This is great news because it will be the weekend prior to Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  What a great way to kick off a very important month!

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Komen Austin Race Finish Line

Right now, our 14 committees that help make the Race a fun event for everyone are working hard to put things in motion. Registration has just opened up, and we are working to schedule some Registration Rallies all around the Austin area. Our entertainment committee is working on securing some great local DJ’s and bands to place around the course for entertainment. Merchandise is picking out some great items to have for sale at packet pick-up and on Race day so we can all show our support! Our sponsors are ready to jump in, and of course, the Survivor committee is planning to make this year another memorable year with our Survivor Celebration! So many terrific things are happening for Race, just too many to list!

Another change that we are REALLY excited about is moving our Survivor tent into our main lot! Now everyone will be able to enjoy all of the great festivities and music in our main lot. Again this year, we are not having a rolling start. Timed runners will begin at 7:15 a.m. Untimed joggers and walkers begin at 7:30 a.m., and the start line closes at 8:00 a.m. Make sure to arrive early to have time to be on the course before it closes!


There’s a lot of organization that goes into planning the race, and I’m learning there’s a lot of moving parts to putting on a great race. Right now, I’m focusing on the planning and execution of the race and developing and managing the committees that make the race run smoothly.

Lydia-Hopper

Lydia Hopper

I have great support from the Komen staff. Having been a volunteer for the past few years with Race also helps because I have previous year’s knowledge to bring to the table. I became involved with Komen Austin after a presentation from Komen representatives during a meeting at work.  After hearing what Komen Austin does for the community, and how breast cancer can touch so many lives both directly and indirectly, I decided to dedicate some time to volunteering at the office.  One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was volunteering for anything and everything I could volunteer for. Race was the next big event. It seemed a perfect fit to honor those I love and those I have lost because of breast cancer.

Breast cancer has impacted the lives of women within my family and as a result, has impacted everyone in my family as a supporter for those that we love. 

I have had three family members that have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  My aunt had breast cancer, fought her battle and won the first time.  After being cancer-free for years, she found out the breast cancer had returned. During her second time fighting breast cancer, one of her three daughters was also diagnosed with breast cancer.  Though they both bravely fought the breast cancer, they both lost their battles within the same year.  More recently, my sister-in-law was also diagnosed with breast cancer and now is a two-year survivor and continues to be a fighter!

I have met so many wonderful people that have been affected by breast cancer and each have their own story, I do this for them all! 

Knowing I help an organization like Komen Austin provide education, support and life saving services is what keeps me volunteering in any way I can.

The Importance of Men’s Health

By: Paul Carrozza

Men’s Health. What does it mean anyway?  I have been an athlete and runner my entire life.  Does that make me healthy? Well, that’s not the only measurement of good health. I have been working on my health my entire life. I take vitamins, eat organic foods, stay away from processed foods, and avoid fried foods.  As I have aged, my food choices have continued to change.  I eat less sugar, less dairy, less red meat, less white meat. With these changes, I feel better and better. So, I do more than just run for fun and exercise.

Being healthy is being without disease… Disease is just that…Dis… Ease…  Annual Check-ups can eliminate or identify the “diseases” that need to be addressed. If you are clear of no disease, and little else is bothering you, are you still healthy?

On the surface, I say if you are at your ideal body weight, have normal bone density, normal blood pressure, no depression, good cholesterol levels, good muscle mass, no tightness, and are in good enough condition to to out and enjoy the recreational activities you love, then you are probably pretty healthy.

What keeps us from being healthy or in optimum health? It’s the modern lifestyle we live!  No physical activity, minimal time in the sun, minimal time in nature, minimal sweating, passive transportation, too many processed foods, weak and tight muscles, we’re overweight, deconditioned from heat, sun and strenuous activity.  So what’s the outcome of this modern, unhealthy lifestyle?  Disease.  Or, Dis…Ease.

Other things that contribute to your Dis…Ease are low testosterone levels, low self-esteem or just not feeling great about yourself. Being stuck in a rut – the same old thing every day, and you aren’t sure how to get out of it.  Believe it or not, exercise isn’t the answer for everyone.

The answer to good health is finding things that you are passionate doing and preparing for them. The annual climb to a fourteener in Colorado, hiking the Grand Canyon, running a marathon, doing a triathlon, playing in a recreation sports league, or finding a professional coach or trainer to assist you with your passion.  Or, maybe join a team of others who share your passion, and head out on the journey of a lifetime to optimum health.

So, discover the one thing that you would love to do. The one thing you can be passionate about and get yourself out and DO IT! One way to discover what you like to do is to remember what you did with your free time when you were five, seven or ten years old. Maybe those years bring back activities you enjoyed.

My advice for good men’s health is to live life through motion and in the great outdoors. When you find your weekend passion, your days and weeks will have purpose and you will find a path to good health that fits your own passion and lifestyle.


The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a painless lump or thickening in the breast or chest area.  This Father’s Day, talk to the men in your lives about the importance of taking care of their health.

paul carrozza

Paul Carrozza

Paul Carrozza, an Austin running specialist, has coached thousands of runners, non-profit organizations and entrepreneurs over the years. He is most proud of RunTex, being a place where people could come together to achieve their goals.

Paul is committed to developing superior programs and events that contribute to the economic growth in the community and help increase the quality of life in the greater Austin area. The Austin Running Community is a testament to Paul’s passion for providing access for healthy living to the entire community.

Paul is co-founder of the Marathon Kids Program, which successfully helps over 500,000 children per year learn the joy of running. He served two terms on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports during the George W. Bush Administration, is the Co-Chair for the Governor’s Advisory Council on Physical Activity, the Co-Founder and former Chair of the Austin Mayor’s Fitness Council, served on the EMS Board, Texas Medical Board District Review Committee, and he is the founder of Shoes For Austin.

Paul is the Cross Country and Track Coach at St. Stephen’s School and the Interim Executive Director of Boneshaker Project.  He coaches small groups from middle school to mature adults who want to have their mind, body and spirit prepared for a full active, purposeful life.

My Mother’s Untold Story With Breast Cancer And How It Changed My Life Forever

Download Scott’s echo™ Giving app by following the link  at the bottom of the post. 

By: Scott McElroy                                                                                                                                             Inspired by our campaign with Susan G. Komen of Austin, I finally feel ready to write about this for the first time ever. What a story.


It was 2001, and I was 11 years old. Mom and Dad came home with terribly sad vibes and gave my brother and I the terribly sad news. Breast cancer. Damn, that’s not good.

What’s breast cancer, I thought? I didn’t really know, but I knew it was bad from the way my parents told us. I was 11 and my brother was 13. And it wasn’t so much “bad”, as it was just really sad and all at once. The look on my mother’s face was one I’ll never forget. As a parent myself now (11 years later), I now know that look was about more than I could imagine. She was thinking about us. Her boys, her family.

And somehow, in that blur of a day that changed our family forever, I couldn’t even consider that my Mom would actually die. I was 11 years old. Sure I knew it was bad, but I thought she was going to be sick for awhile, and then she’d be fine. I just didn’t have a point of reference for life without her.

And she was fine. She beat breast cancer. And I especially remember her picking me up and dropping me off everywhere during her treatments — school, baseball practice, birthday parties — the whole nine yards for the boy-Mom’s out there. She did chemo and radiation and then she navigated remission and was cancer-free for the next three years. Our family grew closer during that time. We appreciated each other more.

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My Mom, my then-girlfriend-now-wife, Jenna, and I at our house in Lufkin.

My Mom and Dad would kiss more often, we went on more vacations together, played more games together, everything. Some of our favorite memories are during those years. 

 


And then in 2004, the cancer would come back in her chest cavity before then spreading to her brain in 2005. During those two years, Mom and Dad still kissed a lot, we still went on vacations together, we still played games together, and we still made many unforgettable memories.

And then in October of 2005, just like it was yesterday, my Grandmother woke me up at 5 a.m. to tell me that my Mother had passed away.

She cried, and we hugged. I started walking to my parent’s room to see my Mom for one of the last times. We were so close, her and I. Absolute best friends — she made me, me.

I can remember each step as I made the walk to her room knowing she was gone.

I was shocked and confused, no idea what to do or how to feel. I kissed her hand and her forehead, told her thank you and that I loved her, and sat down in my parents’ room with my Dad, my Granny, and my brother.

Everyone was in tears, but me. Somehow, I don’t think I cried at all the day my Mom died. I was stunned and sad, but I really knew how much she loved me and I felt an odd sense of wanting to be strong for everyone else. In fact to this day, the biggest regret of my life remains seeing my brother in tears that day and not hugging his neck. I was 15, he was 17 and there was a brief moment in our parents’ room that morning where I could’ve grabbed him, and in that moment, I just stood there with him while he cried.

I wanted to be strong, but I couldn’t — I didn’t know how. My brother probably didn’t even notice and has likely never thought about that moment before in his life (I’ve never asked), but at that moment, I can’t think of anything else I regret more.

A piece of me has always been missing.

Later that morning, the funeral home came and took my Mother’s body. Friends and family brought food and flowers and gave some of the best hugs ever that day. And then just like that, I began navigating life without my Mom. High school. College. Marriage, children, family stuff, and everything in between, a piece of me has always been missing.

And yet, I feel closer to my Mom more today than I ever thought possible. I’ve been able to learn more and more about her as I’ve gotten older. Ten years later, I know that she’s always with me and that I’m truly blessed to remember her the way that I do. The way that she was. She raised me to be the man I am today and there’s no greater honor than that.


scott with son as baby

My son, Christian, and I at the beach for the first time. Christian, after my Mother, Christina. 

That’s why when Susan G. Komen of Austin said they wanted to be one of the first nonprofits on the ehco™ Giving app, a service very much inspired by my Mother and her life with breast cancer, I was excited to write this story. I knew that I was ready to write this story, and that I was ready to share it with the world affected by cancer. It’s a community full of stories just like mine, of lives changing forever. Stories of delivering bad news to 11-year-olds, of good years and bad years, of shock and confusion, regret, pain, hope, and love. Stories of Mom’s and stories of son’s.

 

Susan G. Komen impacts these stories in so many incredible ways right here in Austin. Community support, awareness and education, and early detection programs mean more women — more Mom’s — stay free of breast cancer. Their current ehco™ campaign aims to provide at least 50 lifesaving mammograms for Austin-area women in need. If you’d like to impact someone’s story with breast cancer — probably someone’s story like mine — then consider making a small gift via the link below or share this story with someone you know affected by breast cancer. You may just help change someone’s life forever.

Download the ehco™ Giving app and give to Susan G. Komen of Austin in a few seconds.

We’re ehco, the easiest way to give to your favorite Austin causes. We believe if we can give together, we can change the world. Join us.

 

Meet Marion Martin: Executive Director of Texas Mamma Jamma Ride

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Save the date for Sept. 24th, 2016 and join hundreds of breast cancer survivors and fighters as they bike ride through Martindale, Tx for the Texas Mamma Jamma Ride. Marion Martin, a two-time breast cancer survivor, serves as the new Executive Director of the organization. She shared with us her own experience with breast cancer and what she loves about Mamma Jamma.


By: Marion Martin

Mamma Jamma is a bike ride held every year in the fall.  Funds raised by the riders support local programs and services for breast cancer fighters and survivors.  The ride creates awareness of the resources, support and help available to people in all stages of their breast cancer journey.

I never viewed breast cancer as the end of my story.

I was diagnosed for the first time in 2008 at age 51. I had a lumpectomy and radiation, followed by Tamoxifen.  My second diagnosis was in 2012, and treatment involved surgery, chemo and radiation, followed Anastrozole, which I still take. I was surprised by the re-occurrence because I thought at the five year mark, which I was just shy of by a few months, I was cured.

My reality was shaken when the surgeon said I would know I was cured when I died of something else.  I then realized that breast cancer would forever be in my shadow and something that I would always need to stay ahead of for the rest of my life.

I have never viewed breast cancer as the end of my story, but rather another opportunity to learn, grow and be a more grateful, in the moment person, who has a better sense of what’s really important in life.

I was terrified of riding my bike.

I heard about Mamma Jamma through Team Survivor and thought the ride would be a great goal for me to work toward as I got myself back into shape. What made the goal of doing the Mamma Jamma Ride even more challenging was that I was terrified of riding my bike.  I obsessed over falling, and I was scared every second on the bike.

After going through treatment a second time, I felt empowered and invincible because I had fought off the cancer monster again and won.  If I could do that, then I could conquer my fear of my bike – right?  That’s why I did my first Mamma Jamma.  It was another fight, another challenge and another obstacle to overcome.

I have been a Mamma Jamma rider for the past three years now.  It is a big part of my identity and an important part of every year. This year is significant because it is my first as the executive director of Mamma Jamma.  I feel so incredibly blessed to have the chance to blend my work and passion, and I hope I can inspire others to get involved.

If I can do it, anyone can do it.

I love it when I hear people say, “If she can do it, I can do it,” because that is 100% true.  I am not especially athletic; my hair is gray, I am not as thin as I would like to be, I am not fast on the bike, I brake on the downhills.  Yes!  If I can do it, anyone can do it.  This year I will be riding with the 15-milers and will be at the finish line until the last rider crosses.

Riding a bike is nothing compared to fighting and surviving breast cancer.  Come to the training rides.  Just show up.  Be proud of being new.  You are there for yourself and no one else.  The support and encouragement is genuine and real.  There is nothing better than being a bad ass Mamma Jamma.  Join me!

Links and contact info:

Mamma Jamma Website 

Register for Mamma Jamma

Training Rides

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter 

Marion Martin, Executive Director
marion@mammajammaride.org