Survivor Wears Pink, Volunteers, Spreads Awareness

Guest post by: Rebecca Hudson, ABC
Communications Consultant
Breast Cancer Survivor, Komen Columbus Volunteer

It was in the spring of 1999 and I was preparing to have surgery on a torn ACL when I got the call. Marsha, my best friend from college mused that she was going to beat me to the operating room. She calmly remarked that they had found something suspicious on her mammogram. The longer we talked, I could tell she was showing her fear and anger about the outcome of the exploratory procedure. “This is why I never got married and had kids … I wasn’t meant to have those relationships because this was the path that was chosen for me.”

As any good friend would do, I calmed her with the usual, “You know how often these things are just a safety precaution. You’ll be fine. You have always taken care of yourself and been vigilant about your check-ups, nothing to fret about.”

I was scared for my special friend. The next day I went to the Komen website and bought a beautiful pink pin, which I have worn every day since. Every October since that year, I have worn pink every day. One year I showed up at work on October 1 without wearing the signature pink and was chastised for not sporting my daily pink…never have done it since.

Rebecca and her daughter Jessica at a Race for the Cure in New York City

I began to seek out walks and races to be a part of, encouraging friends and family to support my new found passion to offset my anger about what this was doing to such a special person. Someone who did everything right: someone who ate healthy, drank in moderation, exercised, went to the doctor on a regular basis and was vigilant about taking preventive actions to stay well.

In the middle of her battle, I got the call from my radiologist that I needed to have another film done of my mammogram. I remember sitting in the small cubicle with the curtain drawn, blindly flipping through magazines for more than 45 minutes before they told me I needed a biopsy. Thanks to mammogram technology, they found my breast cancer early and after two lumpectomies, I only had to do seven weeks of radiation.

Marsha was there every step of the way, giving me advice, counsel and her wisecracks. On the final day of radiation, I came home to find a dozen pink roses waiting for me.

When my treatment was over, I got a call from my sister-in-law who got the same recall on her mammogram. After her second film, she was diagnosed with a fairly aggressive form of breast cancer, had a mastectomy, and went through chemo and radiation. She continues to battle with the usual side effects from treatment, but lives a full life.

Nevertheless, her experience just added to my anger and disbelief.

For Marsha, what followed from the day of her diagnosis was a four-year battle that included a remission and a reoccurrence that, despite an aggressive fight, eventually took her away from friends and family way too soon.

From the moment I got the call that she was gone I was angry and lonely. Although we lived on two different coasts: she in California and I in Connecticut – we talked at least once or more every month. As former OSU roomies, we especially re-connected before every OSU football game, at half-time and when the game ended. To this day I still look at my phone and remark out loud: I need to call Marsha!

I sought an outlet, somewhere to channel my anger, disbelief in the injustice of it all. That’s when I found the Komen Race for the Cure in NYC. Beginning from Marsha’s first year of treatment, I never missed the opportunity to walk (or as I called it, meandered,) through Central Park on her behalf. My friends who shared the experience with me grew in number and my aggressive outreach for donations became more passionate. My favorite memory was the time when 17 of my dear friends joined me in NYC for my 50th birthday – when Marsha was in the end of her second round of treatment. After each race my despair and grief were replaced with hope and a belief that one day someone, somewhere, will find that blessed cure.

In 2007, I found out my sister, who was (that’s right, was), two years older than me, was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer. There probably wasn’t a day she wasn’t on some form of treatment. Her courageous battle ended on August 12 of this year after the cancer spread to her brain, spinal column and spinal fluid, causing her to be paralyzed from the waist down.

It was about four years ago that I moved from the East Coast to Columbus, Ohio, and began to walk with my daughter in the Columbus Komen Race for the Cure. I never felt I could be more emotionally moved than I was in NYC, but I haven’t walked one in Columbus without shedding tears, moved by the inspirations along the way – bands, cheerleaders and bikers; meeting new people – survivors, individuals going through treatment; families and friends who walk in support of someone in their lives.

With the loss of my best friend and my sister, I have a renewed passion for doing whatever I can do to support Komen Columbus. Each year, I find a new outlet within the affiliate to channel my anger and seek out hope that a cure will occur in my lifetime. This year, because of my chance meeting with a fellow 10-year survivor, I found the communication committee and am now a proud partner in their energy to achieve the same goal.

Am I still angry? You bet, but Komen gives me strength to believe a little more each day. For anyone who has gone through the same experience yourself or with a friend or family member, know this: In the depth of despair and disbelief, there’s hope and there’s light. Komen is making a difference and you can be part of it.