A Story About a Walk, a Phone Call, and Cancer

It was a drippy Monday five weeks ago. Ava and I were out walking. We’d been doing that a lot lately. Walking and talking. The conversations were sweet. Sweeter than usual. We also laughed a lot. Our new reality and future just felt bizarre and we weren’t going to lose our sense of humor. We would need it.

We were 10 minutes into our walk when Ava’s phone rang. She looked at the screen and then at me. This was the call we’d been waiting for. It was her doctor. He had news. The biopsy was positive.

Ava has breast cancer.

We asked a few questions and talked about the next steps, but we already knew what they were. We’d been living with this reality for the previous two weeks. Ava discovered the lump. That was followed by a mammogram, ultrasound and then a biopsy. Even though there was a chance the lump was benign we just knew.

Maybe that’s an emotional defense mechanism. Expect the worst so when it’s confirmed it doesn’t feel as bad. This, though, was more than that. The radiologist who did the initial mammogram gave Ava’s lump a name. He said it felt like Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. That’s a bit more specific than “it feels suspicious”.

We finished the call and headed back home. Time to move forward. The waiting was over.

Two weeks before this walk and phone call I publicly announced my 20k One Year Step Challenge. My goal was to get at least 20,000 steps every day for a year. No breaks. It was two days after going public with my 20k Challenge that Ava told me about the lump. Since that phone call there have been more tests and more suspicious areas that needed to be biopsied.

Finally last Monday we received the lab report on the last of the additional three areas of concern. They were all benign. There was only one tumor. It was going to be removed.

When I made the commitment to 20,000 steps I determined I would stop for only two reasons. If I was sick or injured and could not walk or if someone I love is in crisis and needs me in a way that prevented getting my steps. Cancer is a crisis, but so far Ava hasn’t needed me in a way that kept me from walking.

But, last Wednesday was different. Wednesday was surgery day. We had to be at the hospital at 630a. It was an outpatient procedure so I would be taking Ava home and then taking care of her needs.

Lately, I’ve been writing about Intentional Goals.Last Wednesday I got to live that out in high def. The only way I was going to reach 20,000 steps and still be there for whatever Ava needed was to be very intentional.

I got up two hours before we left for the hospital (and 90 minutes before Ava woke up) and got a bunch of steps in. After we arrived at the hospital Ava was taken to Nuclear Medicine for an injection of dye that would identify the Sentinel Lymph Node for the surgeon to remove. That gave me another chunk of time.

I walked around a parking garage while that was being done. I know, that sounds not fun at all. It wasn’t, but everybody else in the waiting room was either watching cheesy morning TV or doing stuff on their phones. I still might’ve have won the “who’s having more fun” award with that as my competition.

I was there when Ava returned from Nuclear Medicine and was with her as she was getting prepped for surgery. Once surgery started I had another 45 minutes. This time I wandered away from the parking garage and walked around the hospital grounds.

Surgery was a success, but it took another couple hours before we left the hospital. I already had my 20,000 steps so the rest came from taking care of Ava at home.

There are still more doctors appointments and further treatment ahead, but it appears Ava’s cancer was caught very early. We are grateful!!

So, Week Six of my 20k One Year Step Challenge is done. (You can check out the full challenge so far HERE.) It was memorable, but not for the steps so much. We’ve got a follow-up with the surgeon this week, but that’s the only cancer appointment. I’ll give you an update next Monday. Thanks for reading.


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Walking is fitness hiding in plain sight. The 30 Day Fitness Challenge will help you set the perfect Fitbit goal for you. The Challenge includes a contract you can make with yourself. That might sound cheesy, but having a signed piece of paper is a powerful motivator on those days when you just don’t feel like it.

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If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Fitbit Inspire HR. This is the Fitbit I use to track my 20,000 steps a day. The Inspire HR also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.


(By the way…if you use the link above to but a Fitbit Inspire HR this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

Lastly, this blog is designed to help you embrace walking as a fitness activity. It’s sustainable, flexible, effective, and fun. Every week I post new articles with stories and helpful suggestions to Win at Fitness.

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