Here at Komen Columbus, we are so thankful for all the love and support given to us by the community. We have been overwhelmed with the generosity from our volunteers that we want to highlight as many of them as possible. This is a letter written by our Honorary Race for the Cure Chair, Mary Mertz. Her story is one that truly touched our hearts and we hope her words will help encourage you to join in the fight against breast cancer and Race for the Cure.
Thank you for registering for the Race for the Cure. I really appreciate your participation, and wanted to take this opportunity to share with you the story of my breast cancer journey and why your support in finding a cure is so important.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2006. The call from my doctor telling me the lump in my breast was cancerous shattered my world. I was a busy mom with two young daughters, ages 7 and 9, a full-time lawyer with a downtown law firm, a Girl Scout leader, and active in numerous community and political activities. I did not have time for this. And I was scared.
From the very beginning my doctor warned me that the recommended treatment would involve a mastectomy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Not a pleasant prospect. Like many recipients of such a diagnosis, I immediately engaged in a crash course on breast cancer, mining online sources, books and articles for more information. Did you know there is even a “Breast Cancer for Dummies” book? It is an overwhelming task to be informed, but it was very important for me.
I would like to say that treatment was easy, but it wasn’t. It seemed that I continually fell into the “exceptional” category. After my mastectomy I needed to go back for a second surgery to remove additional lymph nodes; my body did not tolerate the first round of chemotherapy and put me back in the hospital for a week as I was lacking important white blood cells; serious complications related to cervical cancer had me in and out of the hospital on numerous occasions during this time, including significant blood transfusions. The list went on and on.
And of course there is the hair loss caused by the chemotherapy. While bald is beautiful on many, not so on me. I chose the wig or hat route most often. My kids gently pulled my hair out by the handfuls, and, ultimately, my wonderful husband shaved my head. I sat on a chair in the bathtub while he shaved. While watching what remained of my hair fall down around me, I reflected that I had never really had great hair anyway. Oh well.
One of the most difficult things to do after a diagnosis is to tell family and friends. My husband and I immediately told our young daughters who, while too young to understand the full implications, knew something was terribly wrong. I am proud to say they have become ambassadors of the breast cancer cause. Just as difficult was telling my mother. I give her credit for taking it like a trooper and being there to support me every step of the way.
Every day I am thankful for the family and friends who carried me through dealing with the diagnosis, my various treatments and all the complications I endured, and life thereafter. Except for wishing breast cancer could be cured, my one wish is for anyone with a cancer diagnosis to have the exceptional emotional and physical support I received from family, friends and co-workers. I rode through it all on the wings of these angels.
Recently I was visiting my doctor for a follow-up visit and, unexpectedly, ran into someone I knew. She had obviously just received a bad diagnosis. I asked what I could do to help. Her response was, “Can you make it go away?”
Well, I am trying my best to do just that. Every day I try, through my work with Komen Columbus. And, through your support, I truly believe we will succeed in making breast cancer go away.
Our vision is a world without breast cancer. For your sake and for my daughters’ sake, I will continue working to achieve that vision.
Thanks for your support,
Mary C. Mertz
Please join Mary on May 15th, 2010 for the Race for the Cure in downtown Columbus. Click here to register if you haven’t already or to access your Participant Center to start fundraising.