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The Alaska Club

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And Just Like That…

Posted by Suzanne Crow & Tina Day | Jun 7, 2023 2:21:58 PM

The Alaska Club is a proud sponsor of the 2023 Alaska Run for Women. If you have not already registered, we invite you to do so and join us on Saturday, June 10 for this incredible community event that raises money for awareness of breast cancer and women’s health, and to highlight Alaska’s female athletes.  Retired TAC Marketing Director, Tina Day and her mother and breast cancer survivor Suzanne Crow share Suzanne’s journey from diagnosis to recovery.


As I move forward into 2023 with returning energy, I have begun to form a new outlook on life. When I look back, I realize it was only a little over a year ago when my world turned on its head. It was February 21, 2022 when I got the call in the afternoon from my MD, to tell me that I had a malignant tumor the size of a pea. She immediately referred me to a surgeon at Providence Cancer Center as I needed to get in right away.


Though I could clearly hear her, I was sure she had the wrong number and the wrong person because it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t real. I was diligent about my mammograms, I had them every couple of years since my forties; back then annual mammograms weren’t prescribed. I didn’t begin annual visits until my 50s as recommendations changed. I had a history of fluid-filled cysts and fibrous breast tissue, so I always stayed on top of my mammograms, as well as self-exams. Though I will admit, I wasn’t as good at home exams as I should have been. Several times, I had various procedures to investigate issues that arose over the years, the diagnosis was always benign. I was never concerned about breast cancer.


Our family didn’t have any history of breast cancer, so I never thought about it until my mother was diagnosed in her early 90’s. Even then, I didn’t relate this back to me, it was just a fluke. My mother had surgery to remove the tumor, which hadn’t moved or spread. And, because of her age, she was placed on hormone therapy rather than chemo. It all seemed relatively simple, and we even “scoffed” a little at the inconvenience of it all. But then, her cancer meds coupled with her existing meds caused a rare autoimmune skin condition called Bullous pemphigoid, an alligator-like skin condition from chest to toe. It took nearly two years to get it under control with medication and topical creams.


At the time of my diagnosis, I was 76 years old. I had gone in for my routine mammogram, but the radiologist didn’t like what they saw, so they had me come back for a diagnostic mammogram test and biopsy. I chalked it all up to the years of the same thing I had experienced due to my fibrous breast tissue – I didn’t think a thing about it. Honestly, all the appointments seemed inconvenient at the time because I was busy planning my granddaughter’s wedding.


I immediately called my daughters who helped me to get my mind on the right track and we all went into warrior mode. I still had so many questions. I also felt different about myself because it didn’t seem like me. Why, what did I do wrong? My MD referred me to the Providence Breast Cancer Center to see a surgeon, and soon after I was set-up with an Oncologist. All of this happened in less than a month - from the time I received the news of my cancer in February until my surgery March 18, 2022.


My surgeon Dr. Marilyn Sanford was very caring, kind, and thorough. I welcomed the urgency with which she treated my cancer. After surgery, I was placed under the care of Oncologist Dr.Ellen Chirichella. I liked her calm and comprehensive approach to my treatment. She listened, gave me choices and was very understanding. The most important advice that I can pass along is to establish yourself early on with doctors you feel confident with and can stay with long-term.


I received good news after my surgery. They didn’t see any spreading and my tumor hadn’t metastasized. Since my diagnosis was in the early stages, and because of my age, I was able to avoid chemotherapy and radiation. I was prescribed a hormone-blocking medication for breast cancer. In the beginning, I was concerned about some of the side effects like a reduction in my bone density. I had a bone density test prior to starting my meds, and surprisingly it came out good. We now monitor my bone density every 6 months.


One of the other side effects that may have been brought on by my hormone med (Anastrozole) combined with medication I was already taking, was an extreme rash - like mother’s skin disorder. I experienced intense discomfort, swelling, welts, and severe itching causing scabs from head to toe. It took about a year to get under control with help from Prednisone, Dupixent injections, and topical creams.


During this time, I was taken off Anastrozole for about a month until things got better. I started a different, less aggressive med which I am currently taking without any severe side effects (Tamoxifen) so far. Throughout my recovery, I had very low energy, and because my body was compromised, I was susceptible to sicknesses like cold, flu, RSV, UTI, Shingles, and other more common illnesses. My mind and body took it’s time to recover and I was along for the ride. I lost the desire to exercise, clean the house, cook, travel, etc.


Without the support of my husband, two daughters and friends I may have taken longer to snap back. They all kept me moving forward one step at a time. I’m doing well now, and my energy has returned - I’m much more like my old self. I have changed my lifestyle in many ways by drinking less alcohol (wine), sleeping longer and better, and trying for a less stressful way of life. I’m in a much healthier mindset and have been cancer free for 1-year, and my mother just turned 100. I have several goals I’d like to achieve, aside from beating cancer. I’m starting with the Alaska Walk/Run for Women, something I’ve never done before…


See you on the course.

Suzanne Crow,

Wife, Mother, Friend & Survivor

Learn more about the Alaska Run for Women and register for the event at https://www.akrfw.org/


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