Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 in photos-A Year Worth Remembering

In January 2011, I started to get worked up for a small nodule I found in my right breast.  It began with an appointment to a primary care physician, then a mammogram and ultrasound, and finally a core biopsy.  On January 25th, I received the news that I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma~breast cancer.

Later that very same day, my 2011 race bike arrived.  The irony.....

Receiving the diagnosis triggered a cascade of medical appointments and surgeries.  In 2011, I had 68 cancer related appointments.

Shannon and I spent many hours in the Huntsman Cancer Institute waiting rooms.  
Packing snacks was essential.

On February 18th I underwent my first surgery, a lumpectomy.  After surgery I received the excellent news that my lymph node biopsy was negative.

Relieved and happy to be done with surgery

Post-lumpectomy bandaging

Later in the week I received bad news from my final pathology.  The tumor was larger than what we originally thought and the lumpectomy margins were not clean.  This meant 1-chemotherapy was certain and 2-there were still cancer cells in my breast.

On Friday February 25th I underwent my second surgery to try to remove the rest of the cancer from my breast.  The pathology report after this surgery indicated that my margins were 'clean'-there was no more cancer in my breast-however they were 'close'-less than 1mm of cancer-free tissue surrounding where the tumor was removed.  A 3rd surgery to obtain greater than 2mm of cancer-free tissue was inevitable.

I ultimately decided that enough was enough, and my third surgery was to be a mastectomy.   Words can not describe how difficult this decision was for me, but at this point, today, I do not regret my decision.  

The weekend before my mastectomy, Shannon and I traveled to Fruita, Colorado for one last hurrah.  This was our last trip out of town until July.  

I also went on a hat buying binge in anticipation of losing my hair during chemo.

 I later found out that hats really aren't that comfortable when you are bald and it is 90 degrees outside.  Cotton, Buff headbands are much more comfy.
The week of my mastectomy, I chopped my hair off.  I thought it would be easier to manage with my post-mastectomy limitations.

 I went from this
 to this
 and finally this
My ponytails were donated to Locks of Love

On March 25th, I underwent a total skin/nipple sparing mastectomy.  Surgery was uneventful and I was discharged from the hospital the following day.

A tissue expander was used as a temporary implant.  Saline was injected every few weeks to gradually stretch the skin so that a permanent implant could be placed later.  Although I joked that I was going to upgrade to a DD, I was very assertive with my plastic surgeon that I wanted to stay as close to my original size as possible.  I ended up deciding to have a small implant placed on my non-mastectomy side to help with symmetry.

This is a photo of 3 tissue expanders

On April 15th I was cleared to begin chemotherapy.  I received 4 treatments of Taxotere/Cytoxan (TC) spaced three weeks apart. 

It was very important to me to stay fit and healthy during chemo.  Click here for some strategies that worked for me.  Although there were certainly side effects, I exercised almost every single day.  Some days it would be for 30 minutes, some 2 hours.  Moving helped me feel alive.

Rippin' trail is still possible while undergoing chemo

For me, wearing a bike helmet was my favorite and most natural way to cover my bald head

Oh yeah, my newly cut short hair started falling out in chunks 
three weeks after my first chemotherapy treatment

Although as a cyclist, I have always strived to eat healthy,  I made the personal decision to switch to a plant-based diet.  Shannon and I spent the summer becoming fairly proficient at preparing plant-based meals.  

 Beans, kale, onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  Yum.
Black beans, yams, spinach, onions topped with almond cheese on a whole wheat pita.  Yum, yum.

I also have a green smoothie every day.  My favorite ingredients are kale, brussel sprouts, spinach, almond milk, hemp protein powder, frozen fruit, banana, ginger, and MILA.  It is definitely an acquired taste, but with my smoothies I am more concerned about nutrition than taste
Some of my favorite books that help guide my diet

My final chemotherapy infusion was June 17th  

I then had six weeks off work for summer break.  Perfect for rejuvenating the body after chemotherapy.

I spent the summer riding my bike

 Hanging/riding with new friends
 and old friends
and playing with my crazy puppy

We also traveled to Steamboat, Colorado and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Admittedly, I wasn't too keen on photos when I was bald:)

On August 15th I underwent my final reconstructive surgery.  Around the same time, my Dad's health started to decline.  He passed away August 31st due to complications related to Early-onset Alzheimer's. I don't like to talk about it, especially on my blog.  

Me, Dad, and Gordie December 2008

This fall/winter has been spent rebuilding strength and fitness in hopes that I can compete at an elite level in 2012.  There. I said it. I plan to return to racing in 2012!   Training officially starts today.

I have already dabbled in a bit of racing 

I added a BMX bike to my fleet that now includes a full-suspension, 29er hardtail, singlespeed, cross bike, road bike, and now BMX bike!

By the end of November I was ready for my first haircut.  
Christmas was spent with family, 
and this photo serves as evidence that after four short weeks I was already ready for a second haircut

2011 will always be remembered as a trying year: physically and emotionally.  That said, when Shannon and I finally came to terms with the fact that most of the year would be spent undergoing treatment, we made a choice.  It would have been easy and even understandable if I hid out for the year, miserable and sick, feeling sorry for myself.  But life is too short.  Instead, we decided to live life to the fullest extent possible, despite the circumstances.   Even though 2011 wasn't the year it was supposed to be, there were many great times.  Thank you everyone who was part of those great times!  Although I am enthusiastically ready to move on to 2012 and life after cancer treatment, 2011 was a year worth remembering.

Here's to a full, healthy, and happy 2012-for me, my family, and everyone! 

Happy New Year!


  1. This is a great recap of your year! We will never forget 2011, but hopefully it has taught us to make the most of 2012 and every year after! Way to go Jen, can't wait to hear about you winning tons of races next year!

  2. Thanks again for sharing your highs and lows with us over the past year Jen. With your determination and positive attitude I'm sure you will have an excellent race season. BTW, you look great in your hat collection. Lol

  3. What a journey! You are such an amazing and strong woman. The Elite ranks should be scared (and proud) to have you along for 2012 :) Best of luck!

  4. You are simply amazing. Nice pictures shared. These are good memories for 2011.
    Nice sharing and keep posting.
    breast cancer doctors

  5. Thanks for sharing your journey. Best wishes in 2012! Glad to hear its off to a great start with hawaii and good news!

  6. You are an inspiration. I was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of weeks ago and have my lumpectomy op in just over a week. I'm keeping strong and hope to stay that way post-op, just like you. Thank you for sharing what you went through. You are amazing.