Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 in brief-Review

2013 started with optimism, joy, and hope that our toughest days were behind us.

Our 2013 Holiday card

We started the year off right with an amazing vacation to Tulum, Mexico where we chilled on the beach and explored Mayan ruins.

Tulum, Mexico:  In our opinion, the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure

Chichen Itza

We declared that we would celebrate every single January being cancer-free.

Winter training went well and my health seemed better than ever.  Early season race results confirmed that I was indeed fitter and stronger than ever!

On the top step at the True Grit 50 

Less than two years out from finishing treatment for my original diagnosis and I was starting to feel like a "normal" person, not a cancer patient; however as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer and is at risk for a recurrence knows, there is always a small, lingering fear that it could come back.

In January, I pointed out a small nodule in my armpit to my oncologist.  She was not concerned, so I was not concerned.

Fast forward to May and I felt like the nodule was changing.  I no longer had to "dig around" to feel it, I could feel it while washing in the shower.  So the week after winning 12 Hours of Mesa Verde with my husband and teammate, I made the call.

The next morning I found myself back at Huntsman for an exam, which led to an axillary ultrasound, which was "highly suspicious".  A core biopsy was done on the spot and two days later it was confirmed that there was indeed cancer in the lymph nodes.

The following two weeks were filled with appointments to determine the extent of the cancer.  Multiple MRIs, a PET scan, and ultrasound were performed along with axillary lymph node dissection surgery which left me with a drain.

 I was looking pretty fit post-op

 ...and the monitor numbers don't lie

The JP drain to prevent fluid build up in my armpit post-op

Eight lymph nodes were removed; three of which had some cancer.

Our optimism, joy, and hope were replaced with confusion, sadness, and fear.

The consensus was that despite a negative sentinel lymph node biopsy back in 2011, the cancer had been lurking in my lymph nodes all along.  For whatever reason, I fell in the less than 5% of false negative sentinel lymph node biopsies.  MRI and PET scan results fortunately indicated no current distant metastases to other organs, however it was disconcerting that the cancer cells in my lymph nodes were growing despite my previous chemotherapy and current Tamoxifen use.

Further chemotherapy and radiation was indicated, however since I was an "unusual" case there was no research-based, statistically supported protocol to follow.

Thanks to some good friends, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to go to one of the best cancer facilities in the country, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, for a second opinion.  Our trip was a successful one, and we came home feeling confident in a treatment plan.

In July, for the second time in two years, I was undergoing chemotherapy.  My regimen included three of the most toxic drugs including Epirubicin, 5-FU, and Cytoxan.

These drugs are so toxic that nurses have to "gown up" to administer

In addition to my medical treatment and self-directed anti-cancer diet, I started working with Nutritional Solutions.   With the goals of enhancing my cancer treatment while minimizing side-effects as well as supporting my body to ward off future recurrences through research-based anti-cancer nutrition and supplementation, I feel empowered that I am doing EVERYTHING I can to prevent another recurrence.

In anticipation of losing my hair, I got a short-sassy cut that I loved!

Can't wait till my hair grows out to this length again!

Sporting the bald look

Chemo days were dark days, however I tried to fill them with as much joy as possible.  I rode my bike to every single treatment and arrived with a smile on my face.

Getting in some dirt therapy prior to hitting the infusion room

Cancer has a funny was of bringing people closer or tearing them apart.  Shannon was once again my rock, validating that the BEST decision I ever made was marrying him!

May 2013 (Photo: Anna Pocaro Photography)

My crazy hound puppy became my best friend.  He would cuddle with me when I slept, go running/hiking with me when I felt good, and never commented when I looked like sh**.

I surrounded myself with people who were easy to feel joy around.

....and spent most of my energy doing things that made me happy.

Wasatch 360 relay race to raise money for Summit Bike Club

I finished chemo September 20th and three weeks later started radiation.

6 weeks and 30 treatments later I was done with radiation and celebrated with my first trip out of town since starting treatment back in July.  We spent 5 days at our condo in St. George, UT that we purchased this summer.  We were under contract with the condo just prior to my recurrence.  With so much uncertainty, I was tempted to back out of the deal, however following through with it can be classified as our best decision of 2013.  Every day I spend in our little desert retreat, I have to pinch myself that it is ours!

5 consecutive days of bluebird skies and desert riding

My holidays were spent with family and another trip to the desert.

Dizzy reading with his cousins

Helping Gear Rush Skills with their annual junior elite winter camp while on "vacation"

Lots of biking, hiking, relaxation and joy was had in this desert paradise!

When all said and done, 2013 can be summarized in numbers:
8 races, 4 wins
70+ doctor's appointments!!!
4 chemo infusions
30 radiation treatments
0 illnesses (colds, flu, etc....besides cancer)
510 hours on the Bike
168 hours cross training
and surprisingly, although not so surprising when looking back at the photos, lots of joy and happiness

Even though I have another surgery lurking in the near future (either oophorectomy or hysterectomy), Shannon and I are looking toward 2014 with optimism, joy, and hope that our toughest days are behind us.

Here's to a Happy, healthy 2014 and beyond!


  1. Cheers to a cancer free 2014 and then every year after that!!!!! You're amazing and thank you for sharing your story, it gives hope to other people and it inspires everyone that reads about your strength!

  2. Whew, what a year! Yay for joy and happiness, may 2014 be the best year ever! :)

  3. Jen, you are amazing! Your strength, positive attitude, and dedication to healthy living are exemplary. You truly inspire me to make healthier choices and live life to the fullest. 2014 is going to be a great year for you!

  4. This is the only blog I am following these days! and it is giving me a lot of positive energy. Thank you Jen....With best wishes for 2014!