By Marcy Kay
No one wants to learn they have breast cancer—especially not a second time. Six months after I had been diagnosed with cancer following a routine mammogram, I faced a second diagnosis. Through a monthly self-exam, I found a lump in my other breast.
After my first diagnosis, I had a lumpectomy and radiation. I was fully active and didn’t share the news with many people. But the second time was different. My mother had died of ovarian cancer, and although neither she nor I had tested positive for BRCA 1 or 2, I chose to have a double mastectomy and oophorectomy (surgery to remove ovaries). And this was before a certain starlet made it big news!
In many ways, I was very lucky. I had a built-in breast cancer survivor community. When I moved to San Francisco, I was involved in the Young Adult Division of the JCF, Jewish Community Federation. After my mother died, I joined a group of JCF friends for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, as there was no comparable ovarian cancer walk. I have completed five of these two-day, 39-and-a-half mile walks to raise money for education, free screening and research. When my husband and I enrolled our child at the Peninsula JCC’s early childhood program, we became close to many Jewish families and created a great community. Unfortunately, many of these moms have been affected by breast cancer.
The other thing I was lucky to have was the Pink Ribbon Program at the PJCC. I remember seeing the signs posted around the PJCC about the program and thinking, “I never thought I’d need this.” I took a picture of the sign, showed it my husband and called Vicki McGrath, who runs the program. She was so calm and comforting. It was exactly what I needed at that moment. She encouraged me to see her when I was ready. The program gave me something to focus on, and six weeks after my surgery, my journey to recovery through the PJCC’s Jewish Wellness and Pink Ribbon program had begun.
At first, my work with Vicki was just talking about my goals, as I had limited mobility. I couldn’t open containers or pull a shirt over my head. Through our work together, I was able to build back my physical and emotional strength.
The Pilates-based program worked on my range of motion, body strength, fatigue levels, and overall body compensation. Vicki and her team work with each person individually, as no one’s recovery is exactly the same.
The PJCC has been a big part of our lives from the moment our child began at the preschool, and has continued with swimming lessons, day camps, and the Jewish day school, which is connected to the PJCC. We all use the fitness center almost every day. I am really proud the PJCC embraces wellness in the way that it does. Having wellness offerings like the Pink Ribbon Program, and making sure they are financially supported, fills a critical service for those needing this type of program.
The Pink Ribbon program at the PJCC was life-changing for me. I am fortunate for many reasons and for that, I am forever grateful.