New Year’s Day Reflection – Game Face On!

2016 is going to rock no matter what obstacles get in my way!!!! Wishing peace and love to everyone this year!!!!

January 1, 2016 2015 was supposed to be my year. My year to break through barriers and bring my body to a new level. By this time last year I had registered for TRI-MANIA expo (total immersion swim analysis and ironman 70.3 private coaching session), 4 sprint triathlons, 1 Olympic triathlon, 1 Ironman 70.3 and a 10K. I was ready to take on this adventure. I had just won, for the second year in a row, the indoor triathlon challenge at the YMCA. I went on vacation to Aruba to escape the snow. I attended the TRI-MANIA expo and had all the materials I needed to have a successful triathlon season. February 20th I found a lump in my breast. For two months I was convinced by my doctor that it was a cyst or a cluster of cysts. Well, when this “cluster of cysts” started to interfere with my swimming and running I knew it was time to do something. I took it upon myself to go to a surgeon (ok I have to admit, if it wasn’t for my chiropractor telling me to get a second opinion…I wouldn’t have). I asked the surgeon to drain the cyst wit a needle. When nothing was coming out, I knew I was in trouble. He did a biopsy that day. April 28,2015 I was diagnosed with Stage 3b inflammatory, triple negative, BRCA-2 positive breast cancer. This is an extremely rare and aggressive form of cancer. I desperately wanted to continue training and racing. Things moved so quickly though due to the aggressiveness of my cancer growing every single day. What started as a lump the size of a golf ball was now encompassing my entire breast down to my chest wall and had invaded my lymph nodes under my arm, along my sternum and along my collar bone. I started Chemotherapy a week later.

The first race of the season was the Mystic 10K Memorial Day weekend. I felt good that day and went to meet up with my friend Milly. I had to walk/jog most of the race but Milly stayed right by my side through the entire race, even when the police car was right on our heels (literally)!!! Thank you Milly!!! I didn’t know at this point that this would be the only race I would complete this season.

As the Mystic triathlon neared, I asked my oncologist if I could swim. She said sure, in your own pool in your own backyard. I responded, “well, I was kind of thinking of swimming in the mystic river with my triathlon team.” She nearly exploded!!!! “NO WAY!!!” There was too much of a risk of getting a cut and infection. Still living in a world of imagination, I thought “ok, I can do this by training in my pool and just racing in the open water”. Yea this was a fantasy because the chemo really did a number on my energy levels.

The weekend of the Mystic YMCA triathlon had arrived and I was more bummed out than I thought I would be. I couldn’t race but knew I wanted to be there to cheer my friends on. I pulled up to the Y, parked and made my way to the transition area. Started talking to a bunch of my friends and realized that they were all wearing the same shirt! “We TRI 4 Aimee” tank tops and tee-shirts!!! I couldn’t hold it in anymore, I started to cry. This group has been amazing through this entire journey. They made me a chemo care package, sent flowers, held fundraisers, dedicated their racing season to me, sent cards, honored me with bin #1 at the OCY-TRI, take me out to lunch, and come visit me frequently!!! I couldn’t ask for a better support system!!! Polly, Jen M, Terry, Marie, Milly, Kim, Tracy, Melanie, Brian, VJ, Ed, Brent, Steve, Timmy, Diane, Monica, Kathleen, Laura, Becky, Cheryl,…I hope I’m not forgetting anyone…these people are my Boulder that keep me going!!!

To those of you that I convinced to do the Ironman 70.3 with me, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to train along side you and race with you this year. It was very humbling when My teammates would blog about their training sessions and would think of me. Terry, my synchronized swimming buddy, really put herself out there to help raise funds for my medical expenses. She also never missed a chemo therapy session and would come tell me stories about training. Your amazing Terry!!! This is still a dream of mine to complete the 70.3 and eventually the 140.6!!!! I will get there and I know you will be there supporting me!!!…..or racing along side me 🙂

2015 wouldn’t be what is was without the support of my family (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, Grandparents). Especially my mom who cared for me when I couldn’t get out of bed for days (ok it was more like months)…lol except when she went on strike for a couple days. My sister, Jen, has been a tremendous help as well, managing my finances and setting up a go fund me website to raise funds. Jen held my hand the day I had my hair cut (8 inches) and donated to make wigs for people in need. She came over in a flash the day my hair started to fall out and buzzed it for me…all while making me laugh and smile. Her entire family (Brandon, Ryan and Kyle) all make this journey tolerable, by making me laugh, bringing me out to dinner, taking me for ice cream, and many hugs and kisses. Best was when we drove by the westerly hospital and Kyle exclaimed “that’s where Auntie Aimee lives”…he loved riding the elevator when he came to visit me, and the nurses loved when they would FaceTime me both at Westerly and Women and Infants.

When all of this started to happen, my niece Kaitlynn and nephew Nicholas would come to my house before school and after school. It wasn’t unusual for them to see me in the morning because I worked second shift. However, it was very rare for them to see me in the afternoon (I never missed work unless I was on vacation). I still remember the day that Kaitlynn asked me why I was home so much and why I had to keep going to the doctor for the “hook” (biopsy, port placement surgery, injection sites, etc). The fear in her eyes when I told her that I have breast cancer tore me apart. I knew from that point that I needed to be strong and make things feel as normal as possible. My sister-in-law, Tonya and my oldest nephew Jacob would also come visit often and watch tv or movies with me.

Of course the greatest kudos goes to my oncologists, Dr. Vanasse and Dr. Legare for saving my life!!!! They took phone calls at all hours of the day and night, held me in their arms when it was just too much to handle and made me believe that I had a fighting chance. A huge thank you to all the nurses, surgeons (dr. Monte and Dr. Gass) phlebotomist, chiropractor, therapists, physical therapist, infection control doctors, etc for continuing to help me through this experience. I’m not done yet, still have weeks of radiation to get through and prophylactic surgery and reconstruction, but I will get to the finish line in time!!!

Special thank you to Michele, my sister in fighting, she has been and continues to be my rock! She has been mentoring me through every step of this journey! I’m so grateful to have someone that I can ask these crazy questions to and know that I’m not so crazy after all.

You all mean so much to me! 2015 made me realize how precious life is. Enjoy every second of every day.

So as much as I would like to say the 2015 sucked, I can only be thankful that I had all the support from family, friends, teammates and community. As I continue with this journey, I still dream of competing in triathlons and reaching new heights. 2016 is going to rock no matter what obstacles get in my way!!!! Wishing peace and love to everyone this year!!!!

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