Taking inspiration from a friend to fight breast cancer

Liz Wright with a "friend" at the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure

Liz Wright with a “friend” at the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure

By Liz Wright, Member, Communications Committee, Komen Detroit Race for the Cure

As a runner of half marathons and the occasional full marathon, I consider myself to be a healthy person.  I sneak an extra cookie (or three) every now and again, but overall I feel like I make good choices. 

We runners surround ourselves with other like-minded individuals, swapping homemade granola recipes and debating just how many servings of leafy green vegetables one needs in a 24-hour period.  It can border on silly at times but as a runner, I’ve become very aware of what I put inside my body. The level of exercise I put my body through has a huge effect on my race training. 

Sometimes you feel like you have all the answers. That is, until reality decides to surprise you. 

A 35-year-old friend of mine, a personal trainer and marathoner who ran at least one mile every single day in the first half of 2012, has breast cancer. In my mind, she shouldn’t. The math doesn’t add up. She runs races year-round. She motivates and promotes health and wellness to her dedicated and loyal client base. She exercises for a living, for goodness sake!  But life happens and cancer happens. 

People who don’t have a reason to get cancer sometimes end up with cancer.  Let’s be honest – no one who is diagnosed with cancer has a good reason for having the disease.  People don’t hear about a friend or family member with a recent diagnosis and say, “Yeah, I saw that one coming.  Doesn’t surprise me.” 

July will be the one-year anniversary of her diagnosis.  Her treatment menu by the summer will be as follows – a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, tissue expansion, radiation, breast reconstruction and a hysterectomy.  And through all of this, she’s continued to work and be a mom, wife, loving friend and supporter to all her clients. 

She’s a hero and she doesn’t even need a cape.

She’s kept a Tumblr (a social media Web site) of her struggles and victories since the first day of her diagnosis.  With wit, grace, sadness and gratitude, she writes about her journey through every treatment and surgery.  She guides us through the disgusting parts and the hopeful parts and the intimate parts.  She is sharply funny, constantly finding humor in the most unlikely places while being brutally honest about the harshness of her treatments. 

Through all of this, she fights and stays positive. She even had the phrase ‘stay positive’ tattooed on her wrist post-diagnosis.  She fights every day with a sense of purpose.  Physically and mentally, she gets stronger with each passing week.  She recently posted about getting back to her old activities with her friends – “Every day, in every way, I am closer to being me.” 

Breast cancer can make you feel like less of a woman and can steal parts of your identity away from you. She’s taught me that opening yourself up and sharing the deepest parts of yourself is a difficult but important part of the healing process. Watching my friend climb out of this pit of self-doubt and uncertainty into the light of her full life is inspiring. 

Her journey is the reason why I choose to support the fight against this disease. It’s up to all of us to make a choice to fight alongside our friends, mothers, sisters and daughters as we envision a world without breast cancer!

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is the presenting sponsor of the 22nd Annual Komen Detroit Race for the Cure. To learn more about the Race and to register, visit karmanoscancer.org/KomenDetroit. You may also e-mail raceforthecure@karmanos.org or call 248-304-2080 or 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266).  

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