The word "cancer" is scary to hear. Questions like, "How am I going to tell my family? What's going to happen to me? What are my options?" scatter the brain. Similar questions went through former dancer, Emily Gresh's mind.
Diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39, Gresh was terrified and wasn't sure how to tell her family. But after hours of scouring the Internet one night, Gresh was able to turn a negative event into a positive, life-changing one. Gresh shares her story of how she turned to cycling to fight her battle.
Before you were diagnosed with breast cancer, how active were you?
I was a professional ballet dancer. I stopped dancing in 1997. Up until that point, I was very active—I was a very elite dancer. But then I had my little girl, and my activity level went down.. I did some yoga and ballet classes, but it was very sporadic. I worked a lot and had a very busy schedule, so I didn't have the time to really commit to one thing.
Explain what happened when you were diagnosed?
In 2004, I found a lump in my left breast. I had a lumpectomy and it turned out the lump was benign. It was a relief. Due to my family history of breast cancer, my mother and two aunts had breast cancer, I had a higher risk of breast cancer. I put the cancer scare behind me. What I didn't put behind me was going to get mammograms. I went every six months, then annually, and then I skipped a year. I knew I needed to go to the doctor. So in 2010 I went to back to get my mammogram. That's when I got a call from my doctor --they wanted to do more tests.
I went for a biopsy and a few days later I got a phone call asking to come back in, and that's when the doctor told me that I had breast cancer. Just hearing I had cancer was stomach-dropping.
Fortunately it was at a very early stage. He started to explain my options, but they were not great because there were three areas the doctor wanted to take out.
What were your options?
My options were lumpectomy and radiation. Since there were three spots, to do the lumpectomy the doctor was going to have to remove a lot of tissue. So there was going to be a great deal of damage done to my breast. The conversation went from here are your options to, 'You should have a mastectomy.'
On top of that, the conversation went to double mastectomy and reconstruction. Since I was a very high-risk patient, the chances of my cancer coming back to the other breast were very high. The doctor said I could go through this once or twice. I decided the double mastectomy was the best option--it was a very hard decision.