I'm most importantly a daughter, sister, aunt and dependable friend to many. I practice law as a vocation and yoga as an avocation. I'm deeply committed to helping people, as a lawyer and as a yoga instructor. I'm a two-time cancer survivor -- beating breast cancer diagnosed in October 2005 and uterine cancer diagnosed in August 2010. I'm just another ordinary person living an ordinary life, one day at a time.
Everything happens for a reason.
I used to get so annoyed when people would say that to me. I always heard that expression when I was in the middle of some perceived life crisis and sure that my world as I knew it was going to end at any moment.
Those choice words were often followed by equally irritating comments such as "more will be revealed" or "you don't know how this story will end" and other similar profound statements that, in my mind, did nothing to help me out of my immediate misery. Instead, they made me feel like my distress wasn't justified.
Well, maybe it wasn't. But I didn't learn that lesson when I was in the middle of a crisis; I learned it looking backward during a period of gratitude and calm.
Early in 2009 I got a phone call from a friend, a fellow breast cancer survivor who was a member of the Board of Visitors for MD Anderson Cancer Center, asking if I would serve as chair for the Sprint for Life 5K race. This annual event is the major fundraiser benefiting the Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program. I told my friend that while I truly loved MD Anderson, and was grateful to have received outstanding medical care from my doctors there, I didn't even know anyone who had ovarian cancer.
I politely suggested that perhaps I wasn't really the best choice for this volunteer task. She responded that my personal contact with this particular cancer wasn't really relevant, but what was relevant was my combined life-long passion for running and community service.
Up for the challenge
She convinced me in a brief conversation that this deadly cancer needed someone like me to help spearhead the fundraiser that was literally and figuratively trying to run this cancer off the face of the earth. I'm hopeful it was my competitive spirit -- I love a challenge -- and not my ego that nudged me to say yes.
Despite a busy legal practice, multiple volunteer commitments in my community and my own daily fitness regimen of some combination of running, yoga and cross-fit, I became all-consumed with Sprint for Life.
This event had garnered an amazing group of dedicated volunteers composed in large part of MD Anderson doctors, nurses, researchers, staff and survivors who returned each year to ensure the event's success.
Everyone was united by the same mission: to raise awareness about the symptoms of ovarian cancer and funds to find a cure or increase long-term survivorship.
The 2009 event, held in early May, as it is each year, was a success by every measure. I was definitely hooked. MD Anderson was kind enough to invite me to return as the event chair for a second year. We all worked together to make 2010 Sprint for Life an even bigger success than in prior years. I was excited to be living the expression "together, we can make a difference."
My summer of 2010 began in a way so unremarkable that I hardly recall any details of my day-to-day life then. The only notable exception was that I was more tired than usual -- exhausted, in fact -- and I had put five extra pounds on my usually small, fit frame, that I could not seem to lose despite my rigorous exercise schedule.
I complained miserably to my then boyfriend who rolled his eyes and mostly ignored me. My friends and family thought I was tired from too much exercise along with my work schedule, and chalked up my weight gain to menopause. But I started to think something else was wrong. I recognized some of my symptoms from my pre-breast cancer diagnosis.
Read Everything Happens for a Reason Part II.