After I registered to run the Nashville Rock ‘N Roll Marathon, I decided to do it for Team Bright Pink. I wanted to contribute to their educational workshops which teach and inspire young women to be proactive about their health.
Yes, we’re all painfully aware of breast cancer’s existence, but it is a disease that can truly be impacted through taking the right steps for early detection—and early detection can save lives! Something about the idea that I could take steps now to reduce my risk of breast and ovarian cancer really resonated with me. My motivator and running partner, Megan, has been directly affected by breast cancer in her family, and I want to see fewer people suffer. Running with Team Bright Pink is a way that I can directly contribute to that mission.
Fundraising tip for all of my fellow Team Bright Pink: A $20 donation has the power to educate 5 young women through Bright Pink’s online risk assessment tool. This makes $20 a great denomination to request when fundraising. Start by giving $20 yourself, then ask some friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Don’t forget to share your story and fundraising page on social media.
We are in no place to stop — this team has much to accomplish!
Ready to turn your run into something more? Join Team Bright Pink for your next race or fitness competition.
Let me start off by saying, breast cancer does not run in my family.
2014 was a tough year and I’ll never forget it. After having a miscarriage, I decided I wanted to get back into really good shape. A month later, I was showering post-workout when I felt a lump in my right breast. I figured it was no big deal since my hormones were still balancing back out but I decided to have my general practitioner examine me anyway. Besides, I already had an appointment scheduled.
The day of the appointment, I had my doctor perform a breast exam and, sure enough, she felt the lump. She scheduled me for an ultrasound the next day and, after the ultrasound, I only had to wait a few hours before they called. I was told I needed to have a diagnostic mammogram and, possibly, a biopsy. My heart felt like it was in my throat but I stayed positive and scheduled the mammogram.
The breast specialist I saw was a grim woman with no bedside manner. She told me the ultrasound images were concerning then sent me for my mammogram. Once it was over, the doctor came back in — even more grim-faced than before. I needed to go to the hospital and have the lump biopsied immediately.
I felt like my world was crashing down. I went for the biopsy and the radiologist said she was pretty sure it was ductal carcinoma in situ (stage 0 breast cancer), although I wouldn’t have the official results for three days.
Three days felt like forever, but the pathology results finally came. It was breast cancer and it was aggressive. I was devastated but ready to form a plan of action.
So, I chose my team of doctors and scheduled my mastectomy. Surgery day came and I felt really good about my decision. I was surrounded by passionate and vigilant doctors and was happy to have a plan after so much waiting and uncertainty.
I had a little more waiting to do for the final pathology results, but we finally got good news. The cancer was limited to the right breast and my lymph nodes were clean. They did upgrade me from Stage 0 to Stage 1 but I didn’t need chemo.
Then, my oncologist decided to have my tissue looked at by the hospital where he is a fellow. It’s a good thing he did because they found a lot of things that were missed by the pathologists at the hospital where my surgery was performed. The most important being a particular trait of my cancer that had the potential to be very dangerous. Because of this, my doctor recommended chemo.
Chemo. The one thing I didn’t want to do. I was willing to give up my breasts but not my hair. I got over the shock pretty quickly and, soon enough, was ready to start — but not before we did some fertility preservation.
Fertility preservation entails lots of doctor’s appointments for you and your hubby, lots of blood work, lots of hormones, and a class to learn how to administer those hormones.
On the day of my class, I took a LOT of notes and left with a shopping bag full of hormones. They promised to call when it was time to start the regimen. I got the call that afternoon. I was four weeks pregnant! I was over the moon and so were my doctors. I had their blessing to have my baby and we agreed to start chemo once he was born.
So, nine months came and went and my beautiful baby boy arrived. A few weeks later, I started chemo. It was rough but I got through it the same way I got through the diagnosis and surgery — with lots of amazing family and friends by my side.
Treatment wrapped up in August 2015 and, not long after, I had my reconstructive surgery in what finally felt like the end of a very long journey.
So what would my advice be to you? Find a great doctor, don’t miss your yearly exam, and know your body. If something doesn’t seem right, talk to your doctor. Don’t wait!
Early detection is so important and so is being educated about your risk and your body. Without early detection, I’m not sure I’d be here today.
What Bright Pink does and stands for inspired me to run this year’s Chicago Half Marathon for Team Bright Pink. And now, thanks to running, I’m on the path to being healthier and happier than I’ve been in a long time.
Chiara is sharing her story in the hopes that it will help other women understand the importance of breast and ovarian cancer prevention and early detection. Help us bring her message to women across the country — just $20 has the power to teach 4 women early detection through our in-person Brighten Up workshop. Donate to help us educate and empower more young women like Chiara.
“HAPPY NEW YEAR!” Another year had come and gone, as I watched my 2013 resolution escape out the window. While I hugged and kissed my extended family members (all 50 of them), I thought to myself: This is the year. I was going to run the Chicago Half Marathon but — then again — that’s what I said in 2013.
Five months later, I saw a Facebook post from Bright Pink about competing for Team Bright Pink. I had been following Bright Pink for a few years, simply because I applauded their mission and enjoyed reading up on tips and tools for taking care of my breast and ovarian health. Both cancers run in my family: My maternal grandmother battled breast cancer in her late 40’s, and my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer eight years ago. They continue to be the strongest women I know.
I thought — If I am going to run a half marathon, why not do it for a charity I admire? About two minutes later, I was finalizing my fundraising page. Little did I know that I was signing up for one of the best experiences of my life.
The people close to me have heard this phrase hundreds of times, and it’s true, “If I didn’t sign up for the marathon with Team Bright Pink, I probably wouldn’t have accomplished my goal.”
Team Bright Pink supported me the entire way — they helped me train with other Bright Pink runners through Fitness Formula Clubs (FFC), sent me countless encouraging emails up until the day of the race and connected with me after the race with thankful and congratulatory praises.
While I had an amazing experience training for the half marathon, and I continue to wear my neon pink shirt as often as possible, the best part of my experience was the inescapable and comforting feeling of being part of the Bright Pink community on race day.
My stomach was twisting into a tight ball of knots as I walked to my starting corral — the only race I had done before this was a 5K — could I really run 13.2 miles? As I plugged my headphones in and prepared for the 13.2 miles ahead of me, I was startled when a neon pink shirt ran over to me and wrapped me into a hug. She was a veteran Team Bright Pink runner and could probably tell that I was a bundle of nerves. She assured me that I would do great and told me to focus on having fun — my nerves immediately started to diminish and my excitement soared. Best friends? Yes.
Along the course, I ran a little faster to high-five the pink shirts in front of me and smiled proudly as I passed each mile-marker. When things got hard, and my legs begged me to walk, I thought of two women — my grandmothers. Then I thought of all of my young female cousins, sisters and friends and remembered why I was running this marathon and why I knew I would finish strong.
Bright Pink is a special community. It’s connectivity is something that I don’t think anyone can understand unless they immerse themselves in the optimistic, loving and forward-thinking environment. Team Bright Pinkturns strangers into friends and doubters into believers.
Do you want to make a difference with Team Bright Pink? From marathons to mud runs to Crossfit competitions and more, Team Bright Pink does it all. Guaranteed charity entries to the 2016 Chicago Half Marathon now available! Learn about all of our events here.
For Kayla, Liz, Meghan, Christina and Vanessa, taking on the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon was a group decision. Their friend, Kristina, was about to undergo a preventive double mastectomy and was running to both challenge and distract herself from her upcoming surgery. Her friends, eager to show their support, didn’t think twice before deciding to join her.
Kristina was diagnosed with a BRCA-1 gene mutation at 25. Several years, a marriage and a baby later, the reality of Kristina’s risk hit home when she discovered a lump in her breast.
“I had to wait seven days [for the biopsy to come back]. I didn’t know my results, but I knew my risk,” she said. “I was so upset that I didn’t take action, didn’t get genetic counseling and didn’t do anything to help myself.”
A few Google searches later, Kristina found Bright Pink and, with it, a support network of high-risk women like herself.
Though her tumor came back benign, Kristina decided to undergo a risk-reducing double mastectomy. With several months left before her surgery, Kristina needed a distraction. That’s when she received an email about running the Chicago Marathon with Team Bright Pink.
“I’d never run a marathon, half-marathon, or even a 10k before. I’d probably only done 3 miles…ever!” she said.
But Kristina wouldn’t be running alone. Five other women joined her to show their support, including her sister, Vanessa, and childhood neighbor, Kayla.
“We definitely motivated each other throughout training,” Kayla laughed. “Kristina sent us positive emails before a run or after a hard run saying things like ‘I know it’s 85 degrees in July, but we’re going to feel so good after this!’”
For Kristina, her friend’s involvement wasn’t just about a marathon.
“They really put their lives on hold for this. They flew all the way to Chicago to run this marathon!” she said. “[My friends really] went all-in with me.”
So “all-in,” in fact, that Kristina and Kayla decided to commit more of their time to Bright Pink. This Spring, the pair will be going through Bright Pink University to become official Ambassadors.
“I want to spread the word to everyone, including average-risk women like myself,” Kayla said. “It’s so easy to run from something that isn’t a problem right now, but who is to say it won’t be a problem in the future?”
Inspired by the help she received from Bright Pink, Kristina wants to use her position as an ambassador to pay it forward.
“To [be able to] share my story — knowing it could potentially change somebody’s life — is truly amazing.”
To learn more about Team Bright Pink or sign up for a race, including the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, visit TeamBrightPink.org.