Meet Sandra Kirmeyer
Diagnosis: 2004 invasive ductal carcinoma/stage 2; 2007 ductal carcinoma in situ (non-invasive)
Treatment: Lumpectomy, re-excision, radiation, genetic testing, mastectomy, tamoxifen, evista
Currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer? No
Did you have regular exercise regimen before joining ROW? Yes
When did you join ROW? January 2011
Thoughts from Sandra: “Breast cancer was the first many losses over the past six years. I was diagnosed with DCIS in 2004. I had a lumpectomy followed by a secondary surgery to remove additional invasive tumors, and the diagnosis was revised to invasive ductal carcinoma (stage 2). I was stunned by the diagnosis. Why me? I was a health nut and an avid runner, I felt my life was out of control. After six weeks of radiation I didn’t know whether I was now healthy or still sick. I wanted to believe the cancer was gone. It wasn’t. In 2007, I had a recurrence. Scans revealed widespread DCIS and the only treatment option was a mastectomy with lymph node removal. But none of this concerned me at this point. My mother had just completed treatment for a recurrence of breast cancer, and her health was deteriorating.
Even more worrisome was my husband’s health. Like me, Glenn was strong, athletic, and adventurous. When he noticed swelling in his legs, we dismissed it as minor. We were wrong. Glenn had a rare protein-folding disorder, amyloidosis. I learned to be Glenn’s arms, legs and voice. His immune function was severely compromised, which meant we could not have visitors, not even our son. We paid a heavy price for a chance at recovery and life. Glenn died in January 2008, just two days after learning he was in remission. I lost my best friend, lover, business partner, and father of my son. Life as I had known it or twenty-five years was gone. As I grieved Glenn’s loss, I tried to support my mother through the end of her chemotherapy and transition to hospice care. Her health deteriorated rapidly and she died the following year in 2009.
Later in 2009, I developed a breast implant infection, for which I was hospitalized. After several days of treatment I improved and left the hospital optimistic. Life did return to normal for a week or two. Then one morning I found my breast implant protruding from my chest; the skin had ruptured. I had emergency surgery to remove the implant and rebuild my chest wall. What I did not realize until weeks later was that the infection had also destroyed nearly all of my pectoral muscle. After that, I suffered a hospital-acquired colon infection, leading to malnutrition and extreme weight loss—at which point I didn’t know if I would ever fully recover.
My body rallied and within two months I was walking on a treadmill, and I was soon lifting weights to rebuild muscle mass. When I could walk I registered for a half-marathon in Phoenix. I returned with a finisher’s medal and looking for a new challenge. That is when I joined ROW. My motivators for joining ROW were to build strength and quite simply to enjoy life. ROW has helped me do both. ROW women are supporting of each other and especially encouraging of the team’s novices. I needed that encouragement and am very grateful for it. ROW has brought laughter and fun back into my life. GO ROW!”