A Survivor’s Story: Faith, Family, Fitness

Guest Writer: Erica Griffin, Breast Cancer Survivor

“Breast cancer does not scare me.” These were the words I heard from my doctor in September 2008. Though my 30-year-old head was spinning with a diagnosis that came out of nowhere, her confident words stuck out to me like a neon sign at night.

Up until that point, my life had revolved around my husband, Jack, my high school sweetheart; our three children: Tyler, Zachary and Katie; and my love of running. Breast cancer had no place in my life. I was convinced that this was NOT my life. But it was. This was real. And the lump we had been watching for over a year – and had been assured that it was nothing – was indeed cancer. Shocking doesn’t even describe how I felt. I have no family history of breast cancer. I have maintained a healthy weight all my life by eating right and exercising. And I was only 30 years old.

So after hearing my doctor’s shocking words, I clung to the only things that I knew to be true: my faith, my family, and my fitness. I knew that my faith in God would carry me through and that He would take care of me. My family would be my source of love and unending support. And running would be my normalcy and my strength. We prepared for the fight all together.

Erica running as a survivor in her first Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, 2009

Erica running as a survivor in her first Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, 2009

I had a lumpectomy and all the lymph nodes removed from under my right arm. Five of ten of them were positive for cancer. Following surgery, I had six rounds of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, a full year of targeted drug treatment with Herceptin, and I still continue on hormone therapy. I had treatment every three weeks, and my doctors and treatment center are three hours away.

The roughest part of this was during radiation. We made the drive five times a week for six weeks. I would get up in the morning at 5 am, have some coffee and prayer time, go get on the treadmill for 45 minutes to an hour, then start waking up the kids for school. I would leave at 7:30 am, drop the boys off at school (Katie wasn’t old enough yet), and we would head to my radiation appointment, which was at 10:40 am every day. Afterwards, we would grab a quick lunch and drive home, making it home around 2:30 pm, in time to pick up the boys from school. Looking back, I can’t believe I did it. But with the support of my family and friends, who all took turns driving me and keeping me company, the time really flew by.

Erica running in the 2013 Komen St. Louis Race

Erica running in the 2013 Komen St. Louis Race

I read a quote from runner Monte Davis that says, “Running long and hard is an ideal antidepressant, since it’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time.” I have lived this quote in my own life. Throughout it all, I continued running. The month that I had to take off after surgery felt like forever because running is a part of me. It is part of who I am. To me, it means more than health and fitness, it goes beyond that; it’s “me-time” and during this time of my life it meant normalcy and strength. I also knew that it would only do me good to keep physically active during treatments. And boy, did it! I sailed through my year of treatment strong. With every step I could hear my doctor’s words in my head: “Breast cancer does NOT scare me.”

Our family has actually benefited from my diagnosis with breast cancer. It seems strange, but it is so true. It has put our lives in very clear perspective. We realize what is truly important. No longer are things such as money, bills and the petty day-to-day things that used to concern us, nearly as important. We have learned to take the time to slow down and enjoy each other, and to thank God for every moment we are given together. It has strengthened our faith and made our family so much stronger. And I’m thankful for the lesson.

Winner! Erica was the first breast cancer survivor to cross the finish line at the 2013 Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure

Winner! Erica was the first breast cancer survivor to cross the finish line at the 2013 Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure

Since my last treatment in October 2009, I have had the opportunity to speak at several women’s events about my journey with breast cancer. I have such a desire to help others. I want to reach out to other young women who have had a diagnosis with breast cancer and tell them to be strong and believe you can WIN this fight! Be positive and put it in your mind that you WILL win. Even when you think you can’t wait one more minute for that test result, or that you can’t possibly take one more treatment, remember to rise up and stand strong…you have a whole army of fellow survivors standing behind you, living PROOF that YES YOU CAN.

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Stories of No Boundaries

No Boundaries  - Spring 2013

No Boundaries – Spring 2013

Ten weeks ago, more than 200 individuals made a healthy lifestyle choice. They all committed to train for the 15th Annual Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure® on June 15, through FLEET FEET Sports’ No Boundaries 5K training program. Ten weeks later, here are three of the participants’ reflections on the experience…

A Personal “Project” for Anne-Sophie Blank

“In 2005, I signed up to form a Komen St. Louis Race team on the University of Missouri – St. Louis campus. One of my colleagues had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I was so impressed by her determination to “beat it.” So Team UMSL was born that year and this will be our team’s 9th Race.

Last year, in April 2012, I too was diagnosed with breast cancer, so this cause has become even more personal. On May 30, 2012, I underwent a double mastectomy and, later, several rounds of chemotherapy. Komen St. Louis Executive Director Helen Chesnut – and everyone at Komen St. Louis – has been wonderful and supportive.

When Helen called me in December to ask if I would like to participate in a “project,” I said yes. I did not know exactly what the project would involve, but she said it would be fun, so I accepted without any hesitation. Then I discovered I would be running and training for ten weeks as part of this “project.” I bought a new pair of running shoes and before I knew it, I was hooked. Hooked on running again, hooked on this wonderful group of men and women from everywhere in the St. Louis area. I feel great! Running with No Boundaries and Komen St. Louis is the best way to wrap up these last 12 months, which have been rough at times.”

Eva Enoch’s Inspiration for a Healthier Life

“A gentle push went a long way for me in February of this year, when I was asked to be part of the No Boundaries training program. I saw this opportunity as a new beginning, a new inspiration for a healthier life. My first step was to buy my training gear, my second was to actually do the job.

Spring was busy with all kinds of things, and I did not get to most of the trainings…but I’ve been following the training schedule I was given and I’ve trained by myself. I don’t think I am there yet to run the 5K, but I am on my way to be able to run the race course next year.”

Tom Miller: Off the Couch

“I was asked by a friend to join the Susan G. Komen St. Louis PR team a decade ago. The experience of giving my time for a cause was rewarding, and I was hooked. To see the Komen St. Louis Race grow in prestige and to see the bounty the proceeds bring to women and men in our community is worth every minute.

This year, in early spring, I was asked to join the Komen St. Louis team to train for the 5K race. During my more than 10 years volunteering for Komen St. Louis, I had not had the opportunity to run the race course. So, I jumped on this chance. I have not run long distance in years, but this was described as “couch to race” training. That sounded about right for me. The winter gave me a little too much couch time this year.

After several weeks of running and training with runners of all abilities (some of whom are breast cancer survivors), my aches and pains have diminished, my breathing has eased, my motivation has risen, and my weight has dropped.

Why do I run and volunteer for Komen St. Louis? I do it for my team, for my friends, and for the women in my life.”

Survivor, in Training

Guest Writer: Lorry Blath, Breast Cancer Survivor and Komen St. Louis Volunteer

When I was two years out from my breast cancer diagnosis, I received an email from Komen St. Louis regarding a two-day workshop for the Research Advocacy Committee. Enthused by all the possible activities and experiences, I became a regular at the meetings. Since that first event, I’ve reviewed grants, attended several national medical meetings, made arrangements for speakers, and organized workshops and educational events.

When I passed the five-year survival mark, my daughter Lisa organized a team of 20 to walk the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, which is 60 miles of walking over the course of three consecutive days. My first reaction: “Sixty miles?!” Then I joined them on “Team Boobiful.” Sadly, days previous to our walk, Lisa, then 35, was also diagnosed with breast cancer – and went on to lead her team with much enthusiasm and joy. We’ve participated in the 3-Day walk for four years in four cities.

I’m approaching my 10-year mark as a breast cancer survivor, and Lisa is past five years.

Lorry Blath (center) with two of her No Boundaries 5K training teammates, Helen Chesnut and Kris Fleming

Lorry Blath (center) with two of her No Boundaries 5K training teammates, Helen Chesnut and Kris Fleming

Now I’m signed up for the 15th Annual Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure – as a timed runner! I’m training through the No Boundaries program, which eases you into the racing process and before you know it, you are running three miles. I’ll compete as one of the oldest and slowest, but the important thing is that I will be healthy and strong for my 10th anniversary as a survivor.

I’ve been co-chairing the Komen St. Louis Research Advocacy Committee for several years now and have met amazingly dedicated volunteers and staff. I’m heartened and motivated and want everyone to know what an extraordinary group of people comprise the Komen St. Louis Affiliate.

Happy 15th Race!