It’s been four years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I can’t help but reflect on how the Rodeo has affected my long term survival treatment plan!
First, I have to start by telling you that when I showed up to see my Oncologist in late February of 2009, I was wearing my original Nacona Roach Crusher pointed toe boots, along with a denim skirt and black top because I was on my way to the Rodeo! I remember swinging my feet from the top of the exam table like a kid, just waiting to see Dr. Yen. I had already had my lump removed and not knowing anything, I figured that I was done! I laugh now because it was during this appointment that I heard the c word. No not the c-ancer word, but the c-hemotherapy word and THAT word was like a punch to my head. I’d been a yoga teaching, food guru who would never even think about taking prescriptions, much less toxins that caused cancer. But after Dr. Yen showed me adjuvant print outs on me and my cancer, I was ready to schedule my first round. If I didn’t do anything after having a lumpectomy and went back to my world, then my chances of having more birthdays went considerably down. And I wouldn’t hear of that. I cherish my birthdays. If you know me, you know that I celebrate for months! Even today, I am thrilled that my birthday is in less than one month! So, basically those boots that an old boyfriend and I purchased while in College were still with me when I heard the c word. Needless to say, I went straight to Pappasito’s to order a top shelf margarita and share a basket of chips with some lovely random ladies next to me while waiting for my date to show up and take me to the Rodeo. We even got to ride the wagon around the rodeo grounds as they kicked off the night announcing our names. Talk about a Kick-Off to Chemo!
Fast-forward to the next year, when I spent my birthday drinking to many Fairy Tales that I finally puked in the middle of the night. I never puked once while on chemo, but it was to much champagne and St. Germain that finally made me lose my cookies. I laugh because that is just the way I’d want it to happen… while celebrating with friends and double dipping into the chocolate fountain! That is also the year that I went snowboarding in Colorado with a girlfriend who soon announced that she was on a Rodeo committee! She inspired me to think about joining one. But which one? That year flew by.
The next year, 2011 I spent my birthday in the airport trying to get home from Barcelona, Spain, which is one of my favorite places on the planet. The week prior to my birthday was spent at Sagrada Familia, which is Gaudi’s church and also on the beaches of Barcelona gazing at Frank Gehry’s original metal fish while eating tapas and having a general great time. We even had an over-the-top dinner at EVO with hand-made Cava or Spain’s version of champagne. Actually, champagne is a region in France so the Spaniards had to call their bubbly version something else.
In 2012, I just knew that I wanted to spend my birthday at the Rodeo, so me and a friend went to Reliant with her son. I was wearing a pair of French black boots that I had purchased while living in Geneva. I spent more time in the AgVenture than my friends son. It was heaven! I was so surprised to see the Astrodome looked so small when I remembered watching Donnie and Marie Osmond sing from the back of a flat-bed truck going in circles around the arena when I was nine years old… This year was fantastic because we saw Enrigue Iglesius from our nose-bleed seats. I can’t decide which part was better, the fireworks inside the arena or how loud it was! My friend’s son and I just yelled at the top of our lungs and laughed because it didn’t make any difference. We couldn’t hear anything but music! That was also the year that I read the Annual Book I had purchased for $5 and found that Pam Springer was the only woman on a page of big wigs. And I said to myself, “I need to meet that woman! We need to clone her, but whatever she is doing, we need to do more of it.” And low and behold, in the elevator going down after the show, who is in the elevator with me? PAM SPRINGER! I read her badge and commented out loud, “Pam Springer? I wanted to meet you. Thank you for being the only woman on that page. We need more women like you!” She smiled and thanked me before the elevators opened and we all disappeared going towards the parking lot. I was thrilled that I got my wish.
This year, as I headed to see my Oncologist I finally notice that it’s a week before my original anniversary of diagnosis otherwise known as my Pinkaversary. I left the house before remembering to bring my Nacona boots because they need to be shined, but I went straight to see Dr. Yen. In walks his assistant who I distinctly remember from four years ago, when I got the c word. She is a tall blonde lady who used to assist another doctor from my doctors second office location. But what was she doing at this location now? I asked her, “What is your name?” She says, “Katy, why?” I said, “Because four years ago when I had an appointment I showed up in my Rodeo outfit and I think you were there. And now I am on a Rodeo committee headed to a training meeting tonight.” She looks at me and realizes what I am saying. She says, “Oh, my goodness. You are right.”
The interesting part about my conversation with Dr. Yen was that he started quoting research and reviews from Dr. Ravdin when I said, I know him! And I go on to tell him that I went to the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium and totally understand the latest research findings. Knowing that I have been off of Tamoxifen since October and then deciding that all the money spent on Dr. Wong’s tea and supplements had definitely helped me thus far but I just knew in my heart that I needed to be on an Aromatase Inhibitor. Then, he says it. “Sandy please I just want you to take something, even if it’s once every three days. Research proves that hormone inhibitors can prolong your overalll disease free survival up to 14 years after diagnosis.” I know Dr. Yen, and I will, but just not Tamoxifen. I was able to tolerate Femara for so long until it went generic. I’ll try that one again, but not the generic because they are NOT the same. Remember we tried Letrazole, then Anastrazole and they got progressively worse for me. I could barely sleep at night because my internal organs felt like they were on fire… I just don’t know how I’m going to pay for it. Remember when I first purchased it myself? It was $402. Dr. Yen says, “Now it’s $250” as he is happy that I am finally agreeing to something and smiling.
I even tell him about George Wong and the herbs I tried and give him information on it. He sits down as we discuss the Atlas Trial and the Calor Trial smiling at me. I’m thrilled to be able to finally communicate with him on a different level now that I am becoming more educated which makes me an advocate for my own health! I am also thrilled when I tell him, “I found an oil that has broken up the scar tissue from my lumpectomy!” I also invite him to the Aeros Breast Cancer Awareness Game on March 23rd so he can meet some other researchers when he shakes his head that he is already booked that day, when I say, “If you come to my event, then I’ll take Femara every single day!” And we both laugh.
Spending the rest of my day at Methodist hospital working on my practicum project for my Nonprofit education at Rice, I get a call from my mother. “Dear the prescription is $509, so I got one months prescription for you, unless you want the generic then it would be $100 less.” Getting home late that night after the Society Launch Party, I gladly took the pill and went to sleep feeling much better about my life. I’ve got ten more years to go and I’m wearing a pink hat to the Rodeo from now on!