A Journey: Breast Cancer To LA Marathon
Culver City resident Claire Peeps was diagnosed with Stage 2-3 breast cancer on January 23, 2007. It was the lobular type, contained in her left breast.
Claire had an aptitude for life in choosing to stay extremely active during treatment, overcoming the mental challenges of cancer and then running a marathon to celebrate five years of being cancer-free. She believed in doing what was impossible.
“Nothing is forever – there are no guarantees with cancer—but five years is a good marker to reach,” said Peeps as she ran through the streets of Los Angeles Sunday. Her husband and son were waiting for her at the finish line to the LA Marathon.
It was as satisfying an accomplishment as any she’d experienced in her life, and she was deeply grateful that they were there to celebrate it with her.
In 2007 she had a single mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and then underwent six rounds of TAC chemotherapy, followed by 36 sessions of radiation.
She had experienced most of the side effects from chemotherapy: nausea, hair loss, dry eyes, mouth sores, night sweats, and sleeplessness. She also had some that weren't expected, such as: a sudden surge in blood pressure, migraines, infection in her breast causing the implant to be removed, and subsequent difficulty in her reconstruction, post-radiation.
Six months prior to Claire’s diagnosis, her daughter had experienced the death of two of her friends’ moms from cancer. Reassuring her daughter at one particular low point made Claire realize they were all affected by her diagnosis.
Maintaining some sense of normalcy for herself and her family was her greatest concern. She gave her kids presents on each of the chemo days, as a countdown to her finishing chemotherapy. Her kids rallied around her through her treatment.
Claire’s husband he cooked all the meals and supported her throughout her treatment. Her perception is that spouses get the worst of it when their partner is diagnosed with cancer.
Claire says, “When you're the one in treatment, you’re allowed to indulge in worry, self-pity, fear and fitful anger at the unfairness of it all. Your spouse on the other had has remain calm, positive, even with the feelings he may be experiencing that are scary. He has to hold it all together. I got flowers and cards. My husband got extra chores. It was as long a journey for him as it was for me, and in many ways, longer and lonelier.”
Claire worked full time throughout her treatment and took to gardening. She didn't say it out loud then, but she felt her family could touch her through the plants she had planted, even if she was no longer here.
Claire wanted to plan her future, rather than be afraid she wouldn’t be here. She and her husband celebrated their 20th anniversary in Paris once they returned, Claire thought, “If I could do something as improbable as go to Paris with my husband -- why not other improbable feats?
“I could learn Spanish? Perhaps, I could create a website. How about going to the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada? Could I run a marathon?“
Claire first participated and ran in the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for women and then trained with the LA Leggers to complete what she thought was impossible, 26.2 miles. A friend of hers said it was possible and to look at it as about 50,000 steps. Claire decided it was 50,000 affirmations of yes, 50,000 jubilant declarations of being alive and she did it!
Claire knows from her own experience how frightening the diagnosis of cancer is in losing control of her body and the loneliness it brings to the sufferer. She spent many a night laying a wake in bed, her imagination pouring over every possible problem related to her illness.
It was through her experience from treatment through to running the marathon that inspired Claire to create a little booklet, which she has been recently handing out to doctor’s offices. Its title is “Five years and 26 miles.”