Our guest blogger, Frank Blackstock, is the husband of an amazing breast cancer survivor, Cindy Blackstock. Cindy was diagnosed in December 2012. She underwent surgery and chemo yet still managed to complete the Ironman in Kona in October 2013! Her goal of a once in a lifetime dream was her motivation to seeing the light at the end of the cancer tunnel. Their message is so important: make sure to take all measures to protect yourself because anyone can get cancer, even the fittest person. The article below was originally published in the Midwest Triathlon Magazine.
Cindy and I have an important message we would like to get out. To help get this message across, I think it is important to understand a few things about Cindy. Cindy has always been full of surprises. Growing up with immigrant parents in Cleveland, she only spoke Croatian until learning English from the neighborhood kids. The last person you would think to become a Presidential Scholar in Chemical Engineering and earn 7 US Patents. And after stepping away from the workforce for several years to stay home with our kids, probably the last person you would think to start up a very successful research business with another “mom” from our son’s school.
And she’s the last person you would ever think would be an athlete. She never swam, biked, ran, or participated in any type of sport until after we were married and decided to try to run a 10K. But, she qualified for Boston in her first marathon and just qualified for Kona (photo above) in her second Ironman….
That all being said, she’s also the last person you would think to get diagnosed with breast cancer, but unfortunately that was the case several weeks ago. The purpose of sharing this with all of you is to not make this about Cindy, but to make it about you and your loved ones. As endurance athletes, we are probably in the top 5% of the healthiest people on the planet. We are also usually over-achieving Type-A’s. This can create an air of invincibility. We are not. Cindy is fit. She eats right. She lives right. She has no history of breast cancer in her family.
The purpose of this letter is the message we want to get to you and your loved ones; GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS! Do not rely on your fitness routine alone to keep you healthy. Don’t rely on yourself to feel or find something. GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS. You hear a lot of debate in the healthcare community about whether mammograms should really be required until 50. You hear the arguments that early screening has not improved the overall outcomes. While this may be true, if you or your loved one happens to be the one outside of the “normal distribution”, then you don’t give a damn about the statistics. Don’t wait for your insurance company or doctor to figure this out.
To further illustrate this message, I would like to share how Cindy was diagnosed. Cindy turned 40 this year and went in for her recommended mammogram. She never felt a lump. Her first mammogram came back “abnormal” and a diagnostic mammogram was ordered. The second mammogram could not rule out cancer, so a biopsy was performed. The biopsy came back indicating invasive cancer. A MRI was then ordered that showed a 6cm mass. The alarming part was that no one ever felt anything. Even the trained surgeons looking at the mass on an MRI could not feel anything.
As far as Cindy and what you can do, there are a couple of things that we would really appreciate. First, we ask for your prayers, particularly on Thursday as Cindy has her first surgery. Secondly, we would appreciate your help getting the word to everyone to take screening seriously. This will be Cindy’s mission coming out of this; she has already started a scoreboard on how many women she has gotten in for their screening.
Though none of the things I mentioned about Cindy above surprised me, she is the last person I would think to get cancer. If it can happen to her, it can happen to anybody.