From breast cancer patient to chair of MD Anderson’s Boot Walk to End Cancer®
At the beginning of 2017, Binsu Oommen decided to focus on her health, aiming to lose 40 pounds by her 40th birthday in December. She was making progress and was down 31 pounds by August — but then she felt a lump in her left breast.
She didn’t think much of it at first since she had dense breasts, was young, had no family history of any type of cancer, let alone breast cancer. Still, her doctor ordered a mammogram and a breast ultrasound and suggested she go to MD Anderson. In October 2017, Binsu was diagnosed with triple-negative stage IIA breast cancer and began treatment at MD Anderson.
Fast forward six years, and she is now cancer-free and chairing MD Anderson’s Boot Walk to End Cancer®, an annual 1.2-mile fundraising walk supporting cancer patient programs, research, prevention and education. For Binsu, the event is more than just a walk; it’s a way to provide hope to others facing cancer.
We sat down with Binsu to learn about her passion for the Boot Walk and why she supports MD Anderson’s mission to end cancer.
Tell us about your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment and how you are doing today.
I was diagnosed on Oct. 13, 2017, and I remember it was “pink out day” at my daughters’ school. That morning I had dressed them in all pink for breast cancer awareness and sent them off to school. That night, I had to tell them about my diagnosis. I told them I would keep them involved in every decision we made and tell them the truth of what was going on. We made sure they knew I was going to the best place possible to get care. They knew they could trust the doctors and the care team at MD Anderson.
All the doctors, nurses and staff at MD Anderson were a great support. Being a pharmacist, I knew what I was getting into with chemo, but my care team was able to ease my fears. They were there every step of the way and helped me through the whole process — chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy and breast reconstruction. I completed four cycles of neoadjuvant chemotherapy with doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide, followed by 12 cycles of weekly paclitaxel infusions. I had my mastectomy in April 2018 and then did 6 weeks of radiation therapy. My breast reconstruction surgery was the following spring.
This October marks six years since my diagnosis. Today, I am doing well and am cancer-free. I’ve “graduated” from seeing my care team and now have yearly check-ups in the survivorship clinic.
Why is the Boot Walk meaningful to you?
A flier for the Boot Walk was one of the first things I saw as I was awaiting my first chemotherapy infusion. I told myself if I survived cancer, I would fundraise for the Boot Walk the next year. Because of MD Anderson, and of course my friends and family, I was there for the 2018 Boot Walk.
Boot Walk is a lifeline. That flier I saw in 2017 made me fight to ensure I was there the next year. Every year I remember that, and I'm hoping the Boot Walk can be that same lifeline for someone else. When I was going through treatment, my goal was to get better and to be involved in Boot Walk. That’s why I've stayed involved over the past six years.
How have you been involved in the Boot Walk?
My first Boot Walk was in 2018, a year after my diagnosis. I started an online fundraiser with the goal of raising $500. Within the first hour, we exceeded that goal. I had shared my story openly on social media, so a lot of people knew about the care I received and that I was doing well a year after diagnosis. People were very passionate about donating. We raised $14,000 that year.
Ever since then, I've been involved and have fundraised. Last year, I was asked to co-chair the Boot Walk, and this year, I’m the chair.
How can others participate in the Boot Walk?
Everyone is encouraged to sign up and walk with us either in person Saturday, Nov. 4, in the Texas Medical Center or virtually wherever they are in the world. There is no registration fee and no minimum fundraising requirement, although we encourage everyone to raise awareness and support.
Why do you encourage others to join the Boot Walk?
The Boot Walk is a way for you to make a difference. The biggest thing that excites me about the Boot Walk is that 100% of the funds raised go directly to support cancer research and patient support programs at MD Anderson. Very few fundraisers can say that. Plus, the Boot Walk represents and supports patients, survivors and caregivers of all kinds of cancer.
It's exciting to see how many people can get together for the same cause — people from across Houston, the United States and the world coming together to end cancer.