My name is Cyndi, and I'm a 3-time cancer survivor.
When I was 17 I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Five years after chemo and then an autologous bone marrow transplant, I was considered cured. But I did not forget the lesson of cancer, and every day I strove to remain grateful and live life to the fullest.
Twenty-two years later, a lump in my left (dominant) forearm led to a diagnosis of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST), a rare type of sarcoma in the sheath cells around the median nerve, in May of 2011. There was much back and forth regarding whether my arm should be amputated, but in the end my arm was saved, with just a little loss of function. I had three surgeries and 34 sessions of radiation. Right after I finished radiation, I was treated for a basal cell carcinoma, the "good" skin cancer (which actually makes it four, but who's counting?).
With just two sessions of radiation left, I rode a 70-mile bike ride in Door County, Wisconsin, and boasted on my blog about kicking cancer's butt. I had an MRI of my arm that showed no sign of cancer, and had a big party to celebrate the completion of treatment and another victory over cancer. Then, just a month later, I found a lump in my breast. It turned out to be stage I triple negative breast cancer. I insisted on a PET scan to see if any other cancers were lurking in my body (nothing was found). In December, 2011, I had my first of four rounds of chemotherapy. Two rounds into chemotherapy, a MRI showed no sign of the tumor. Two more rounds, and another MRI again showed that the tumor was gone. In March of 2012, I had a lumpectomy, and pathology showed a complete pathological response, or to the rest of us, no sign of any cancer cells. I went ahead with 34 sessions of radiation, and finished treatment on June 13, 2012.
Continued scans of my left arm, lungs (because MPNST likes to show up there), and breast show no sign of recurrence. What took the biggest hit was my sense of confidence. For twenty-three years I had worn the badge of cancer survivor with pride. I had talked about kicking cancer's butt. But cancer kept coming back in a new form. I grew anxious about every new scan, about going without scans for a few months, at the idea that something else might show up. I was scared to live again, to turn away in case cancer was going to creep back into my life if I turned my back.
Then, a little over a year ago, I learned of this little thing called the Million Dollar Marathon sponsored by Above & Beyond Cancer, and signed on. I ran about forty miles in Washington, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky (my official leg of the run!), Virginia, Washington DC, and Delaware, and raised $10,000, but most importantly, I met some really amazing people, other cancer survivors who refuse to let cancer define them, who proudly live each day like it's their last. Some are still fighting their cancers, all are living life to the fullest. To say that this event was life-changing is an understatement.
This year, I'm very very proud to have been selected to participate in another event with Above & Beyond Cancer, this time a trip to Peru. I will be hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with 25 cancer survivors, caregivers, and advocates. Machu Picchu has been at the top of my bucket list for a long time; to be able to see it with a group like this is a dream come true. In addition to our time on the trail, we will be visiting a cancer center in Cuzco and participating in some mission work in Lima the last day of our trip.
I have agreed to raise $5,000 for Above & Beyond Cancer as part of this trip, and I'm asking you to donate. Why? Above & Beyond Cancer is a public charity with a mission to elevate the lives of those touched by cancer, to create a healthier world. Their event participants create a public following through participation in a variety of adventurous, physical endeavors designed to create advocates driven to reduce the
burden of cancer across the globe.
Last year I ran across the country, this year I'll be climbing mountains. Take that, cancer! I'm also trekking in honor of all those people that I've met along this journey, cancer patients who continue to inspire me, and especially those who have lost their battle with this horrible disease. If you'd like to donate in honor or in memory of a loved one, please let me know. Above & Beyond Cancer uses prayer flags to
create tributes to individuals who are fighting cancer and as memorials for friends and family who have lost a life to cancer. I will be creating and carrying prayer flags as part of my journey as a source of inspiration and to fill it with with hope and meaning.