Take Charge

Anna's Story

September 22, 2015

AnnaMatos_640.jpg

The morning I found the tumor, I had just completed a nine-mile run. It was August 2014, and I was in the midst of training for my second marathon. My diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer put a halt to running as I tried to deal with the emotional fall-out of being 37, a mother to identical twin boys who had just turned 2 years old, and now having to take a leave of absence from work to deal with my breast cancer head-on. 

Anna
Anna, center, completed the Disney half marathon only five months after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Running would have to take a back seat as I let my new port heal and begin neo-adjuvant chemotherapy

Months later, after four rounds of Adriamycin®/Cytoxan® (A/C) (aka the Red Devil), I was lucky to be able to walk from my bedroom to the kitchen on most days. I wanted to give up and quit after every single round. I decided to defer my marathon since it was obvious I would not be able to complete any of the required training in time for the January 2015 race. 

After the A/C treatment, I started on a 12-week course of Taxol with Carboplatin every third week. And miracle of miracles, I was able to handle the Taxol fairly well and started to feel human again. About mid-December I thought I would start walking and started off slow, walking and jogging with my husband or dad in tow. I wasn’t in any sort of shape for a 26.2 mile race, but by the end of December, I was up to walking/jogging five miles and the idea formed in my head that maybe I could pull off the fast-approaching Disney half-marathon.

After all, when I asked my doctor about jogging, she said just not to go out and run any marathons. She never said anything about a half marathon! I ran the idea past her and she gave me the thumbs up, providing my energy level was good. And to top it all off, I received amazing news on Dec. 31, which was also my six-year wedding anniversary; the latest MRI results came back showing a complete response. My 5.2 centimeter tumor was gone. I was cancer free! It was the best day of my life. 

A few weeks later there I was crossing the finish line of the Disney half marathon dressed in a Mad Hatter costume, with my sister dressed up as Alice in Wonderland and my friend as the Queen of Hearts.

As I rounded the corner and saw the 13-mile marker and the finish line in sight, I couldn't believe I was actually going to do it. Only five months after being diagnosed with breast cancer I was going to finish a half-marathon (13.1 miles) while going through chemo. And I managed to keep my wig on the entire race! Hey, you have to take the small victories with the big ones.

It wasn't my first race, and it definitely was not my fastest, but it is by far the race of which I am most proud. I would have never have thought at the beginning of this cancer journey that I would have had the success with the chemotherapy that I had or that I would be celebrating by completing this run. But thanks to Dr. Ismail-Khan and her nurse Sandy Santiago, who took care of me emotionally and physically throughout this roller coaster, I am here to tell my tale. And when they joked at my next visit about whether I had celebrated by going to Disney, I was able to say, "Well actually….."

Content for this story is from PARTNERS fall 2015; a newsletter of the Patient and Family Advisory Program. For more information about the Patient and Family Advisory Program, please email Kim.Buettner@Moffitt.org or call 813-745-1390.