Inspiration, Living beyond breast cancer, Living with Breast Cancer, Perspectives

A survivor’s race against breast cancer

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By The Edith Sanford team

August 19, 2015

Meet TeamEdith: Kris Altiere

Kris Altiere Finish RNR SEA 2015

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon will hit Savannah this November, commemorating its fifth anniversary in the city. Kris Altiere will be there, racing for TeamEdith to celebrate an important milestone of her own—five years of surviving breast cancer.

“I’ve honored every year of my survivorship by running the half marathon of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon and ½ Marathon. This year, as the race celebrates its fifth year in Savannah, I will celebrate five years living and surviving by racing the full marathon—my first.”

Here is Kris’ incredible story, in her own words, about surviving breast cancer, finding love, overcoming odds and embracing life to its fullest…

Kris’ Story

It still amazes me how one phone call and four words can forever change your life.

On March 9, 2010, a little after 9:30 a.m., my phone rang. It was my doctor, and I could tell she had news she didn’t like having to tell me over the phone.

At the time, I was a 35-year-old single mom to a beautiful 2-year-old little girl. I was in the midst of training for my first Half Ironman Distance Triathlon, which was only eight weeks away. I was in the best shape of my life. But still, my doctor said, “You have breast cancer.”

I’m not sure how much I heard after that. The first thing that went through my mind was fear I wouldn’t see my daughter grow up. The second thing was that there was no way I was going to let anything take that joy away from me.

I had recently begun dating again and had been seeing someone for a few weeks. I told him that I would understand if he wanted to move on and date other people. He told me there was no way he was going anywhere.

Even when I told him the chemo could leave me infertile, he refused to go.

I was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form of the disease. I was given treatment options, but I knew from the very beginning that I wanted a double mastectomy.

I am not the girl who gets sick. I am the girl who runs marathons, swims, bikes and competes in triathlons. I have no history of breast cancer in my family, but there it was and I was going to do everything I could to make sure it never came back.

A month later, the weekend before my surgery, I ran my first half marathon and finished in 1:56.

There was so much going through my head that I barely remember putting one foot in front of the other. But as I reached the finish line, I knew running and staying active would be my key to getting through surgery and the 16 rounds of chemo facing me. As I finished that race, I knew everything was going to be fine.

I continued to run and train several times a week throughout my treatment—it was my escape. I even inspired my oncologist, who said if I could run six miles after a chemo session then he had no excuses.

Four days after my final chemo treatment, I ran a half marathon in 2:24—a far cry from the 1:56 I had run earlier in the year—but I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment knowing I had survived and nothing was going to stop me.

In a way, I feel like my diagnosis has given my life a bit more clarity. When you are faced with something that can kill you, the little things no longer seem to be so bad. You are just happy for every day and you realize what truly matters.

Today, the man I had been dating when I was diagnosed is now my husband. About one year after my final treatment, we found out we were pregnant with twins, who were born the following June.

I’ve lost count as to how many events I have competed in. In every race, I challenge myself to reach a new personal best, and my fastest half marathon time is now 1:45 minutes. I have earned several first place finishes this year.

It has been a long road but I have never once felt as though I had a reason to stop living my life. I never once believed that I could not do anything I wanted. I never once let cancer get the best of me. I truly believe that is why I am still here nearly five years later.

I hope that my story inspires women who are newly diagnosed to realize that not everything you hear is the truth, and that not everything is out of your control. Live life as you’ve always dreamed. I hope my story also raises awareness that breast cancer can affect anyone, healthy or not, young or old, with or without family history.