I’m known here as Runner Girl. My name is Gayle, I’m 52 years old.
I was born in Winnipeg, during a blizzard. My parents thought about calling me Blizzard or Stormy, but settled on Gayle (a big wind), they threw a Y in the middle to differentiate me from my older cousins named Gail. I grew up on a farm, outside of Winnipeg. We moved to Regina in 1976, then to Richmond, BC in 1979, then settled in Calgary in 1985 – my dad worked for Safeway and each time the accounting office moved we moved, until he retired. I had 4 siblings; two brothers and a sister, all younger than me. In April, 1986, my sister died in a car accident. Then in August, 1986, my brother died in a separate car accident. In October of that year our family dog died. 1986 was a really crappy year. In May, 2013 my dad passed away from lung cancer, he was a smoker most of his life, he also suffered from schizophrenia and an aortic aneurism. My mom passed away this year (2018), on January 15th, 4 days before her 76th birthday from complications of untreated diverticulitis. Losing my mom was a huge blow. I am her executor, due to what I believe is her divine intervention, everything was wrapped up in March, probate, house sold, everything. Apparently she knew I’d have more to deal with in short order so she made sure her stuff was all done and taken care of before my lumps were discovered. I have been married twice, no children but currently have two 11 year old cats who I consider my furkids. I am engaged, but since he called off our wedding last October things have been strained, my cancer has not helped this situation.
When I was 40 years old I went in for my baseline mammogram. Turned out I had a lump in my left breast. It was non-cancerous, removed and life carried on. I will never forget its name – atypical lobular hypoplasia. According to my mom, we had no history of breast cancer in the family so I wasn’t really worried about getting it. Since my mom’s passing I’ve conversed with her Uncle who advised there were several breast cancers in the women of his generation in our family – this surprised the heck out of me.
I went in for my annual checkup in April, 2018, and my doctor found my lumps – turns out I had 3 of them, at the bottom of my right breast, right at the chest wall. In exactly a spot where the mammogram does not see. I immediately booked a mammogram (showed nothing) AND an ultrasound (score, 3 lumps, lymph nodes looked clear). From there they booked me for a biopsy. My doctor gave me the results of the biopsy by starting off saying, “you’re not having a very good year”. Could have punched him for his demeanor and method of delivery, he seemed so smug. Then he said you have cancer. My first question was, am I going to die. My fiancé showed up a few minutes later, he was late. I advised my doctor to get surgery set up ASAP. In the parking lot after I gave my fiancé an out. I told him if he didn’t want to tackle this that was fine and we could go our separate ways. He declined and said he was Team Gayle and we’d fight this together.
I found Cancer Connection while Googling about my condition. It took me a few days to sign up as I believe I was in denial about the whole situation. But then I determined I needed help to get thru this that I wasn’t going to get anywhere else, so I signed up. I’ve asked a lot of questions, read a lot of stories and had many wonderful people share their insights, experiences and advice with me for which I am eternally grateful. I signed up as Runner Girl, as at the forefront of my concerns was my 11th Half Marathon for which I’d been training for months. I feared I would not be able to run it.
My surgery happened on May 23rd. Lumpectomy was all that was required, they got clean margins and my lymph nodes were clear. Great news, the best I could get given the situation. I took about 10 days off before I started running again. I purchased a fantastic sports bra from Under Armour that zips in the front and locks everything in place. On June 16th I ran my 11th half marathon in a time of 2 hours and 14 minutes. It was cold, windy and rainy. Not my best time but acceptable given the weather and my own physical condition.
During my healing period I was contacted by the Amber Study. I had volunteered to participate and they wanted to do the physical testing. I'd already provided a blood sample and donated my left over tissue from surgery. The testing consisted of about 3 hours of filling out questionnaires and about the same amount of time doing physical tests. I also had a full body scan done by them. The results showed I'm in really good physical shape for my age. But to stave off osteoporosis I'm going to need to lift weights, heavy weights. I'm waiting until after treatment to start this as I'm not going to the gym, with all those other germy people until chemo is over.
My fiancé had me move from our room to the spare room the weekend before my first chemo. He’s given a variety of reasons for this so I don’t really know why I’ve been rejected. Were the roles reversed I would want to be by him to ensure he was ok thru the night. My cats are happy with this arrangement, they love cuddling up with me for the night, while it’s a little intrusive, I love the fact that they want to be near me and I find their purrs so very soothing. I had my first chemo on July 31st. It went fine, but two days later I thought my ears were going to explode. Turns out the Carboplatin they’d given me can affect the ears. Since I’ve been prone to ear infections as a kid I guess it’s a weak spot. They cut back on the Carboplatin by 20% for the second round and I had no pain, just pressure and a severe balance problem the Friday following. Thank goodness that passed by late Saturday. The following weekend, the September long weekend, I was able to run 5 km each day for a total of 15 km over the weekend. This weekend, right before my 3rd chemo I was able to run 7.5 km each day.
My 3rd round of chemo is September 11th. This puts me at the half way point - YA HOO! If all goes according to schedule, I will have my last chemo 3 days before my birthday. Can't think of a better birthday gift!!
Thank you so much Gayle for sharing your fur babies and your experience with cancer with us. We are so glad you decided to join our community.