Friday, February 26, 2010


I've sat here for about twenty minutes trying to think of an elegant and eloquent opening to this post. Failing miserably. So I'm going to just jump right into the meat of the matter.

I have cancer.

Stage 1 Invasive Ductal Breast Cancer, to be exact.

We found the lump about six weeks ago. I say 'we' because it wasn't actually me that found it. It was the Mexican. Which makes sense, because he spends way more time feeling me up than I spend feeling myself up. It's better that way.

At the time, I didn't think a whole lot of it. I am 32 and have very little history of breast cancer in my family. I also have a nipple ring in that breast, so my first thought was that I may have developed an abscess or cyst associated with that. So we went back to making out and I really didn't think too hard about it again until Sunday.

Sunday was the Jack Frost TT. I had just posted a killer time, despite having raced at Sublime (ly Difficult) Sublimity Road Race on Saturday. Pleased as punch with my weekend of racing, especially considering that I had been taking on a much lighter training schedule this winter. I was putting my TT bike back on the car when the front end swung around and the aerobars hit me square in the left boob.

The pain was so sharp and fierce that it almost dropped me to my knees. A big fat reminder that whatever was growing in me had not gone away, but in fact had gotten a bit bigger and a lot more painful.

On Monday I made an appointment with my general practitioner. (On a side note, if you are in need of a new GP, I switched over to this doctor last summer and LOVE HER. I repeat, LOVE her.) She was concerned enough that she had her office get me scheduled into the Providence Breast Clinic for the next morning.

The Breast Clinic was disconcertingly surreal. The internal waiting area has soothing lights and new age music and tea and home and garden magazines. I sat there in my robe surrounded by 40 and 50 year old women, drinking a double cappucino, listening to Sleater Kinney on my iPod and reading European cycling magazines. Attempting to look bored and unconcerned. Anything that I could do to signal to the world around me "I don't belong here."

There was a deaf woman strapped to an oxygen tank. She freaked me out. It wasn't the oxygen tank or her skeletal appearance or the loud, atonal sound of her voice as she communicated with the woman who is interpreting for her. It was that she directed a crazy stare toward me for the entire time that I was sitting there. Like she knew something that I didn't.

I get through two hour's worth of mammograms and ultrasounds and then sit down with a breast care nurse and a doctor. This is where things started to feel sort of "off." The doctor doesn't exactly look me in the eye and says things like "not a cyst" and "abnormal" and "biopsy," then wishes me luck and leaves the room. The nurse explains the biopsy process to me and, with surprisingly very little wheeling and dealing on my part, convinces the clinic to conduct the biopsy that afternoon.

I am at the clinic for a few more hours for the biopsy and another mammogram, but thankfully do not see the deaf woman again. She scared me to the core.

When I left the clinic, I was told that it would take until at least Thursday afternoon to receive the results. So when I received a call from the GP's office on Wednesday afternoon, I knew in my gut that the news was not going to be good.

Even so, it was still a sucker punch in gut when the doctor said, "I'm sorry, but you have cancer." She talked to me for about five minutes before getting Ricardo from the waiting room, but I don't remember anything that she said.

All I could hear in my head was: I have cancer. I have cancer. I have cancer.

And then: This is bullshit. I have an Oregon Cup bike race on Sunday. I can't have cancer.

And then I cried. A lot. In Ricardo's arms in the doctor's office, in the car ride home, as I wrote the email informing my team and my friends, in bed as I tossed and turned for most of the night.

I woke up yesterday with a well-deserved hangover, but haven't cried since then. There has just been to much to do and to think about.

I met with the surgeon yesterday morning and she was able to firm down the diagnosis (stage 1/invasive ductal cancer) and lay out my treatment options. The growth is about the size and shape of a round almond and very close to the nipple and the surface of my skin. I have decided to wait for the rest of the lab results and for the results of an MRI on Sunday morning before making any big decisions.

My first big choice will be whether to keep the breast. Much of that will depend on whether the lab results show that the growth is one that is estrogen sensitive and whether the MRI shows that the cancer has creeped toward the other ducts in my breast or toward the lymph nodes. Both of which are real possibilities given the location and size of the growth.

I never had much of an opinion one way or another about my boobs until now. When I was a teenager I hated that they were small, but then loved that they were small once I started endurance racing. The only trouble they have ever given me is the pain I inflicted upon them when I had my nipples pierced twelve years ago.

But now, the idea of losing my left one breaks my heart.

There are sprinklings of blessings and good news. First, Stage 1 is good. Well, its as good as stupid fucking cancer is ever allowed to be. I did some research and women my age with stage 1 breast cancer have a 90% long term survival rate. My guess is that most of that 90% aren't as cantankerous and downright hostile to inconveniences as I am. So I feel like I'm in pretty good shape.

Second, I can continue to ride my bike and train until surgery, which will probably be in about a week and a half. I would actually be racing at BB on Sunday if it weren't for the fact that my MRI is scheduled for the exact same time as the start of the Cat 1/2/3 race. And that was probably my last chance to race for a few months. So I guess I will have to concede the Oregon Cup battle to someone else this year. Consider yourselves lucky, ladies (wink wink).

Third, I have received so much support from my friends and family that it is positively (pun intended) overwhelming. I'm actually taking this morning just to be alone and not only absorb the diagnosis in peace, but to take the time to process all of the words of support, advice and referrals.

I have promised many people that I will keep them posted on the process and my progress, and I will do most of it on this blog. But feel free to contact me privately on email, Facebook or IM. I am not much of a phone talker, but calls are also welcome, just know that I am typically slow to respond to my voice mail.

Thank you all for your love, support and prayers. If you get a chance, please direct a bit of that good feeling to my family, Ricardo, my FT and my Hammer Velo teammates. They will also need your love and support in the next few months.

I am not taking this interruption to my racing plans lightly. Cancer picked the wrong racer to fuck with.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

And So It Begins.

"Are you ready to race?"

The Mexican asks me as we sit at an outdoor cafe on the main street of Santa Barbara. It's Friday, sunny and I've had a few glasses of wine. The latter is making me a little slow on the uptake and I initially think that the question has to do with reaching the bottom of the glass in front of me.

"Like right now or in general?"

He gives me a look that suggests that I exercise some common sense.

I shrug.

"I suppose."

Motivation to race is hard to come by right now. I'm not sure if its the product of the mileage we did in California or my preoccupation with things other than bike racing. The road race season opener was three days ago. We were on a plane. I haven't even bothered to check the results page to see who won my race.

Because I simply don't care.

Not caring, ironically, has become a source of anxiety. It feels like burn-out and I haven't even lined up to race yet.

We did some great rides in Santa Barbara. Lots of up, up, up and many spectacular vistas. We visited the gate of Neverland Ranch, cruised past wineries featured in the movie Sideways and spent time at the summit of Gibraltar Road, which, at the time, felt like the top of the world.

As predicted, I had good legs for two rides. Sunday's 70-mile Lake Casitas Loop and the 93-mile epic slogfest up Gibraltar to Solvang and back up Hwy 101. But the climbing legs were on vacation by the time we did the Neverland Ranch Ride on Wednesday and I skipped the second Gibralter ascent on Thursday due to a splitting headache and quads so sore that they were tender to the touch.

Instead, R and I stayed in the foothills, stopping for coffee in Carpenteria and for a photo op at the Santa Barbara Pier.

This was our vacation ride. The ride where I finally started to relax and enjoy the week away from Portland. No worrying about nutrition, start times, flat tires, route maps or keeping the group together. Just me, my man and two wheels. It was a little bit of heaven. Too bad it was our last day on the bike.

Calling training camps "vacations" is a misnomer. To me, vacations mean relaxation. Peace. Quiet. A chance to slow down and be still. To eat slow and ride slower (if riding at all). Vacations do not involve the constant juggling of personalities, jockeying for hot showers and predicting of food preferences. Vacation is not exhausting. And I am exhausted.

So I sit here at my desk feeling like I need a vacation from my "vacation." But instead I print off OBRA waivers and send out carpooling emails. Sublimity is on Saturday and I need to find out whether my current ambivalence is more serious than a sort of cyclist's Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


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