Congratulations to Sally Miller, our 2010 Honorary New Balance Chair! Thank you to Sally for sharing her incredible story with us.
In late January 2004 I got an insulin pump and was planning to go for my two week follow-up appointment so I decided to schedule my six month checkup at the Breast Care Center at Froedtert for the same day. After examining under my left arm the nurse practitioner found something of concern and I was quickly scheduled for a mammogram and an ultrasound - both showing nothing. It wasn’t until I had a fine needle biopsy of the enlarged lymph nodes under my left arm that the area of concern came back positive for breast cancer. I didn’t even make it home from the MRI appointment when they called and told me they found the mass - deep by the chest wall at 8 o’clock.
My breast cancer was already in several lymph nodes, stage 3a, and my medical team at Froedert determined the best course of action would be to have chemotherapy first, then surgery, followed by radiation. Since my cancer had already gotten into my lymph nodes, I underwent aggressive chemotherapy - all three chemo drugs together for six treatments, three weeks apart. Two days after my chemo I went back for an injection of Neulasta® which was terribly painful and caused me to miss work the day after every injection.
On July 12th, 2004 I had surgery. After weighing all the options with my husband, I decided to just have a lumpectomy and the lymph node dissection. Since my cancer was estrogen receptor positive, I also opted to have an oophorectomy, the removal of both ovaries, while I was under anesthesia. The day after I got out of the hospital, I learned there were no signs of cancer in any of the tissue they removed, including the mass itself and the 26 lymph nodes that were removed.
During the course of my treatment one of the hardest things to deal with was losing my hair. I had two different wigs – one I would wear to work and one for the weekends if we went somewhere. Eventually I came to terms with my hair loss and I was so sick of wearing a wig that I made a decision that come Labor Day I was done with them.
On August 31st, 2004, I started my radiation treatments - five days a week for six weeks. A few weeks into my treatments I suffered from tremendous back pain, raising concerns with my radiation oncologist. With my cancer being stage 3a, the concern was that it had moved to the bone in my back. Fortunately, I had bulged a disk in my lower back, which forced me to attend physical therapy in conjunction with my radiation treatments. I finished my radiation treatments just before our 20th wedding anniversary, a tremendous blessing and a testament to what our love can bring us through together.
My husband and I have been through a great deal together. My husband, Vince, has had three primary cancers - squamish cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, the base of his tongue in 2002, a melanoma on his back in 2003, then in 2004 another melanoma on his inner upper thigh. The melanoma on his thigh had some lymph node involvement, so he received high dose interferon treatments (a form of chemo). While he was still getting those treatments, in late 2004 they found another melanoma on his back which after a biopsy came back as renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer). In early 2005 he had surgery to have part of his kidney removed.
Just when we thought the worst was over, in October 2006 I started having some chest discomfort and shortness of breath. I had two places in my LAD (Left Anterior Descending Coronary Artery) that were blocked. One spot that was 80% blocked, the other a short distance away that was 90% blocked. I had a heart catheterization where they placed two stents to open the artery. My radiation oncologist feels that the blockage could have been caused from my radiation treatments, because my radiation field “kissed” my LAD.
While I was going through my treatments I had seen some “Pink Ribbon” items and found amazing items and a sense of hope in at the Susan G. Komen office. I loved the custom made beaded bracelets and other items so much that I wanted to help sell them to my co-workers, friends and family to help “The Cause”, and together my husband and I sold over $3000 worth of items during our battles with cancer.
My husband and I have been through so much, and any time we hear of someone we know, or their family members or friends going through cancer we try to encourage them to never give up the fight as we are proof that “YOU CAN BEAT THIS”! I had a saying when I was going through my treatments, “I am going to kick the cancer’s butt, and take names later!” and that is what my husband and I have both done.
Now here we are six years after my breast cancer and I feel so honored to be the New Balance Honorary Chair for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
Honorary New Balance Chair