Melissa and Mom are running together to raise money for the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Cancer Center! We can't wait to slog through the streets of our beloved city of Boston!
The Diagnosis: Eileen
I couldn’t believe it — I had to get a biopsy 8-hours before I flew to Ireland for a girls’ weekend... what an inconvenience. They asked if I wanted them to call me in Ireland with the results — I said ‘absolutely not’, but I knew. I could tell by the way I was talked to, treated, and addressed as I left the facility. But, I went to Ireland anyway — and literally had the trip of a lifetime with some of my best friends in the world. The day I got back, I got the call. I really couldn’t believe it — I was the uber-healthy one! I never went to the doctors. And, now I had cancer. I told Joe, we cried for a few minutes, and then I went to work. That’s how I deal. We decided we would not tell Eric — he is our melodramatic child and he would be very sad for Mom. He really couldn’t understand. We had to FaceTime to tell the girls, so Melissa could be ‘with us’ in person.
The Diagnosis: Melissa
In September of 2016 my family and I got the dreaded phone call that my wonderful mom had been diagnosed with Breast cancer. The days and weeks that followed are still a blur to me, living in Atlanta and learning of her diagnosis so far away from the rest of my family was one of the hardest things i’ve experienced.
For me the whole diagnosis conversation and its aftermath were quite surreal - it still feels quite unreal when I think back on it. On the day we found out my mom had been quite adamant about facetimeing me as soon as I got home from work.
The beginning was quick, I barely remember it but remember the moment she said "I have breast cancer" and had a feeling I will never forget. Cancer is a word that, in general, makes my stomach turn but hearing it come from my mom was a totally different experience; my heart dropped to my stomach and eyes immediately exploded with tears - and you can ask anyone, emotions are not something I come by easily. Over the next few minutes everyone cried, everyone asked questions (many went unanswered for all of us since she hadn't had the follow up appointment to figure out how far along and what we were in for) and even over facetime you could tell we were all terrified.
However, in true Habelow fashion, after we'd let it all out, we started to make jokes in the form of a pros and cons list (my mom LOVES lists) and with the way we think the pros outweighed the cons BIG TIME and were laughing/crying together by the end of our call. My heart was still in my stomach and I was still scared as hell, but my mom being the absolute hero that she is assured us all we'd be fine and figure it all out in true mom fashion.
The Treatment Process: Eileen
From day one I have said the entire treatment process is tougher on those around the patient than they are on the patient, emotionally anyway. I saw the treatment process as a series of appointments, things I had to do so that I could get back to ‘normal’. That is how I approached it all — I got great advice from a colleague who is also a physician — he told me to put my head down, put my blinders on, do everything they told me to do and by Spring I would be new. And that is exactly what I did. The amazing support network I have carried me through while I focused on me — my Mom and husband came to the initial appointment at BIDMC, which lasted 5-hours; my brother and sister-in-law visited for a chemo treatment, my Eric talked about my bald head more than anything, and my amazing girls were there. Melissa’s company even let her work out of the Boston office for six-weeks so she could be home with me — what an amazing gift!
The Treatment Process: Melissa
I'm lucky enough to work for an amazing company who let me work remote for about a month and a half so that I could be with my mom through her chemo and most of her radiation therapy. Treatment sucked, I mean they were literally pumping poison into her body in order to rid her of cancer; but of course once again she was the epitome of grace and strength - she wasn't going to let cancer or chemo run her day-to-day life, she's way too much of a control freak for that.
The “End”: Eileen
On March 9th, I finished my last radiation treatment, after 32-days straight! And, the same way I began the process is how I finished — with an amazing girls weekend. This time it was with my best friends from my Atlanta days — I taught a class at a client at 8:30 in the morning, I had my last radiation appointment at 11, and I was on a flight to Florida by 2pm! It was so cathartic for me — we partied, played games, used sidewalk chalk, went to a painting and wine night, and partied some more. I LOVE THOSE GIRLS. They helped me transition from cancer patient back to ‘normal’ Eileen that weekend. One of those great friends also convinced me I could run the Boston Marathon... and that is exactly what I am doing now! (Thanks, Kel.)
The “End”: Melissa
On March 9th (one day after international women’s day) my mom had her final radiation treatment and had officially kicked cancer to the curb and it likely wouldn’t have been possible without BIDMC. Not only do I want to run for my mom – she’s my hero, always has been and definitely always will be; I’ve always been very vocal about that – but also for every single employee at BIDMC, because without them there’s a chance I wouldn’t be talking about this experience so positively. They were a godsend to me and my entire family; I want to run for them so that they have the opportunity to continue to treat those diagnosed with all types of cancer with the same love, care and understanding that they provided to my mom. I also want to run for all of those who have either lost their fight or are still fighting, they deserve every opportunity to kick cancer to the curb with the same love and dignity that my mom did and I can’t imagine a better place to do so than BIDMC.
Final thoughts: Why BIDMC? I am absolutely infatuated with the women who treated me at Beth Israel — the chemo nurses were amazing; my cousin Theresa (a nurse manager at BIDMC) was a godsend; my surgeon, MaryJane Houlihan is a rockstar who supported my efforts to not miss a client day by making her calendar fit mine; my Oncologist, Gerberg Wulf and her NP, Michelle, were brilliant, compassionate, consultative, and transparent throughout the process — qualities I genuinely admire in healthcare professionals. That is why we are running for Beth Israel Cancer Center - so the next woman who experiences anything like I did, can get the same care and love. #SoSheCanFight
I have always been a braggart about my excellent health and strong body – I loved being able to circle all of the NO’s on the doctor’s surveys when they asked about past illnesses and difficulties. That was the toughest part about my breast cancer diagnosis for me, personally – I felt very vulnerable, health-wise, for the first time in my life. I felt like my body betrayed me. It was a surreal moment when I heard the diagnosis. I was very scared I would not be ‘normal’ again; not able to brag about my health.
Instead of that fear becoming a reality, I now regularly brag about Beth Israeal Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and how that Cancer Center team got me back on my feet! I tell anyone who will listen how I am absolutely infatuated with my Surgeon, my Oncologist, my Nurse Practitioner, and my Chemo Nurses – all amazing women who gave me incredible care through their medical expertise, but more importantly, took the time to walk me through options, ask how I felt about the options, asked about my preferences, and truly wanted to know how I was doing throughout the process.
I recently got a tattoo... yes, a tattoo. And both of my daughters got matching tattoos. We all have the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon, but my tattoo also has four small hearts surrounding one heart. I am the one heart in the middle, surrounded by my amazing squad that provided incredible strength, love, and a very healthy dose of humor. My husband is the rock, my amazing girls are my heart and soul, and my boy is my life's joy.
A marathon has always been on my bucket list. To run the Boston Marathon is a dream come true.
I would be lying if I didn't admit I want to run this for myself – to show my body that it is strong again and that breast cancer was a blip on the radar screen!
I'm definitely running for myself, but what a bonus to be able to give back to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Cancer Center. If you can donate, please do -- so the next woman can FIGHT.
At the BIDMC Cancer Center, gifted physicians, outstanding nurses, and dedicated staff form a team that is committed to breakthrough treatments delivered with kindness and respect. Researchers have made several discoveries that have led to greater understanding of cancer mechanisms resulting in improved and innovative cancer care. And because we have always understood the physical and emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis, our specialists take the time to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and develop unique support systems.