Sarah’s life was upended when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 at age 35. She had a successful career, was an avid runner, and loved to spend time with her husband, Chris, and their dogs. In the years preceding her diagnosis, she raised suspicions about a lump to her OBGYN, who assured her it was just dense breast tissue. Something still did not feel right, so she asked her primary care physician, who sent her for a mammogram. That led to an ultrasound, which turned into multiple biopsies and extensive scans.
“After they looked at all the scans, it turned out that I had stage IV breast cancer that had already metastasized to my bones,” Sarah said. “I remember my doctor saying the words ‘diffusely spread,’ so it wasn’t a little spot in a bone. It was everywhere.”
“The weekend before I was diagnosed, we hiked 32 miles in the woods in southwest Ohio,” recalled Sarah. “Living and thriving with such an active lifestyle and then finding out that I have terminal cancer a few days later was a bit of a shock.”
Fourteen months after her diagnosis, Sarah decided to retire from her job of 12 years. “My initial medication drained my energy, and I felt like a zombie,” offered Sarah. “I had achy joints, and I was so tired that it was painful. It just wasn’t in my best interest, or the company’s, to continue. It was absolutely the right decision for me to stop working and just focus on feeling better.”
That wasn’t the only thing Sarah thought she had to surrender. “Throughout my initial treatment, I wanted so badly to keep running because it’s part of my identity,” Sarah said. “But I reached a point when I had to accept that I was never going to be a runner again because the side effects of treatment were just too much.” However, after a change in medications, Sarah started to get her energy back. “It was like a jolt, and it gave me the inspiration to kick it back up with the running.” Bound and determined, Sarah resumed her training and started racking up the miles again.
Since long before the cancer diagnosis, running had been a passion and way of life for Sarah. “At points in my cancer journey, it was stripped from me, but I am so very thankful to have it back for however long that might be. It serves not just as exercise but as community, therapy, and a reminder of my own strength. Something so simple as running down the street reminds me just how alive and well I am, despite living with stage IV cancer.”
In March of 2022, she found Cancer Support Community Central Ohio. “I was in my oncologist’s office, and she was two hours behind schedule. I had forgotten my book, so I was scouring all the literature in the waiting room, and the Cancer Support Community magazine was right there in front of me, so I picked it up.”
Sarah decided to find out more about Cancer Support Community. Shortly thereafter, she attended Newcomer Welcome, where she received a personal care plan with program recommendations and encouragement to try a variety of classes and activities. “I just started signing up for classes and then signing up for more; I’m just having a great time,” she noted.
“The fitness-oriented side of me was naturally drawn to Zumba and Yoga,” Sarah noted. “The first time I did Zumba, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then, I found myself smiling while dancing away and knew I was in the right place.
“My husband and I make a ‘date night’ out of Cooking for Wellness. Chef A’Donna has an engaging personality. She remembers details about the participants from week to week; it really seems like she cares, and that's a wonderful feeling. And we have enjoyed more than one of her recipes in our own kitchen.
“Perhaps the most beneficial sessions lately have been Yoga Nidra and Mindfulness. Both quiet my over-active mind and really affect the way my body responds to stress.”
Sarah left her job right before the COVID pandemic started. She was already adjusting to life without the personal contacts she had had at her job for years, and adding all the COVID restrictions on top contributed to the isolation. “I found the connections and community I needed at Cancer Support Community.”
At Cancer Support Community, Sarah has been able to connect with others who are going through the same cancer journey. “When you’re facing cancer at a younger age, you have different challenges,” she explained. “It’s nice to have someone else to relate to who can understand the same thing you’re going through. Most 39-year-olds aren’t retired, so I don’t have a normal 39-year-old life.”
“There’s just something special about this place,” Sarah continued. “Every program is designed to feed you in some way, whether it’s literally with Cooking for Wellness, or filling your spirit when you’re bouncing around the room to Zumba, or just getting a hug from somebody who attended a program with you. This entire place feels like home, and I’m just so fortunate that it’s so close to my house."
“I’ve had a relatively easy journey so far, but this is terminal cancer. As my journey gets more challenging down the road, I don’t know what specific needs I’ll have, but I feel like there’s such a variety of programs here that I'm going to find whatever help it is that I need.”
“Knowing that I will be in active treatment for the rest of my life is a scary pill to swallow,” Sarah admitted. “But life is still so good, and I want to make the most of it while I’m still here. Cancer Support Community has helped me do just that by introducing me to new people and programs designed to make a cancer patient’s journey easier.”
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