Hanging on to Fitness and a Few Strands of Hair Through Breast Cancer Treatment

I am a Medical Oncologist, a wife, a mother of 4, runner of 12 marathons training to run my 13th with a goal to qualify for Boston when the diagnosis of breast cancer caused a significant detour in my well-planned life. When I asked for guidance on how to continue to stay fit while receiving treatment, I received blank stares and found little data. While I never intended to be in this experiment, I find myself now generating my own data about fitness through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. I am writing this in hopes to help others who find themselves in this same situation.


The Visit with the Surgeon

Today was the initial visit with the surgeon. He discussed the options: lumpectectomy vs mastectomy. The randomized studies comparing lumpectomy vs mastectomy show equal survival outcomes, and some large analyses of multiple studies even suggest better outcomes for lumpectomy. I am an oncologist. I know these studies well. I was very comfortable on the other side of the room talking to the patient about these options. But when the doctor becomes the patient, it is easy to forget all of that cerebral stuff and go straight to the emotional response. I wanted to get rid of all of my breast tissue. I did not see the point of having any of it any longer. The surgeon suggested genetic testing which may influence my decision. The appointment was scheduled and I was told that it could take up to 2 weeks to get test results back! So much for that thought that I would go straight to surgery within the week. Intellectually I know that these weeks will not make a medical difference, but now that I know that I have breast cancer, I want it out now! Every day feels like a year!

The waiting is agonizing. But I will try to make the best of the situation. I feel fine physically, so I will dive back into training. I thought that the 8K I ran on March 9 would be my last race before starting into treatment, but now it seems that the Charlottesville 10 miler, a race I had planned as a tune up race in preparation for the Sugarloaf Marathon. The 10 Miler was scheduled for March 23. So for now, to keep my mind off the stress of waiting for tests, results and a treatment plan, I will try to focus my mental energy into my work and training for the 10 miler.

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