By: Jenny Peterson
I’m so excited to be serving as this year’s Komen Austin Race for the Cure Ambassador! Long before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was a Race for the Cure supporter and participant. My family and I first started walking together at RFTC after my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.We made T-shirts and asked friends on Facebook to give us names of people they would like us to walk in honor of and in memory of. I wrote all these names on the back of my T-shirt — you can see my mother’s name, Sue, on the left side. Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in high school, and died 10 years later from metastatic breast cancer.
As you can imagine, it was both a fun day and a bittersweet one. In this picture, I’m with my sisters-in-law and my next older sister after we’d finished the Race. We had no idea that three years later, I would be diagnosed, too.
But, diagnosed I was! It was May of 2012 and I’d just gotten engaged to my longtime sweetheart, Brett. My family and I decided to do Race for the Cure that fall while I was in the middle of treatment. I looked like the walking wounded, because I was — I’d just been diagnosed with lymphedema as a result of my surgery, so my arm was wrapped up like a burrito. I was bald, and I had balance issues because chemotherapy caused nerve damage in my feet. My brother Carl was concerned because I insisted on running down the Survivor’s Path, but no one could stop me! I was never happier to be anywhere else than I was that day — it was emotional, as you can imagine, but I felt strong, happy, and supported.
Brett and I walked RFTC again with some dear friends the following year. My friend Katherine had been diagnosed just a few months after I had, and we walked with her and her husband. A smaller crowd, but no less enthusiastic—we had a great time in the Survivor’s Tent, decorating our pink baseball caps and posing with props.
Today, I’m 4 years post diagnosis and doing well. While I was recuperating from my treatment, I wrote a book called “The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion: Cultivating Hope, Healing & Joy in the Ground Beneath Your Feet.” I’m a garden designer, author, and speaker, and I wanted to do something to help other people going through a cancer diagnosis. To me, the garden is one of the most healing and balancing places around, and my garden was the backdrop to my recovery.
I’m walking this year as the Komen Austin Race for the Cure Ambassador, and I couldn’t be more honored. Komen Austin paid for my $15,000 of biopsies so that I could get a timely diagnosis and start treatment, and I am forever grateful. If you have never participated in Race for the Cure, I urge you to.
Susan G. Komen Austin is the only organization in our area that deals with breast cancer on every level — prevention, mammograms, diagnosis, treatment, recovery, research, and emotional and financial support. I don’t know what I would have done without this organization, and their support meant that one of the darkest times in my life was turned into one of hope.
Race for the Cure…
- Helps survivors know that they are strong, beautiful, and supported
- Helps co-survivors know that they are not alone
- Helps family and friends know that there are definable ways that they can support their loved one
- Helps everyone else to contribute to a cause that may one day affect them or their families
- Provides an atmosphere of hope and gratitude
Please join me this year at Race for the Cure. It’s September 25, so organize your team, plan out your insane pink outfit, come early and stay late! And know that your support means the world to me and countless others. I’ll be looking for you, and if you see me, please say hello — I’ll be the one tripping down the Survivor’s Path, yelling my fool head off.