Diana G: My Story
We were almost settled in our London Hotel when my cell phone rang; it was from my doctor’s office telling me to come back and repeat my mammogram. I told her “but I am in London and will not be back for 3 weeks, what is wrong?” “Do it when you are back, we just want to be sure,” said the voice at the other end. I thought for a minute as to how concerned I should be and I decided to forget about it and enjoy my vacation. I thought to myself, I think last year they also asked me to repeat my mammogram. I then turned off my cell phone to avoid the roaming charges.
When I got back to Orange County, I did the usual back-to-work routine but forgot to call my doctor until I got another call from them a week later. I got worried and got myself to the Radiology Department the first opening they had. They did a diagnostic mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy right there and then. The radiologist also ordered another biopsy scheduled for next week called stereotactic biopsy, but thank goodness this later biopsy turned out to be just a calcified tissue. At that point, I was getting really nervous and concerned. After a few days, I got a call from a Nurse Practitioner, Ally, who sounded really concerned wanting to know if I was alone, then suggested I make an appointment with my MD to discuss results of my biopsy. I told her to just tell me the results of my biopsy and whatever it was I can handle it so as not prolong the suspense. She uttered the word cancer and that is when my world as I know it drastically changed.
My diagnosis was ductal carcinoma. There were no involvement in my lymph nodes and the surgeon got it all. The weeks passed by quickly. In my second week of radiation, the MSW held a support group at our complex near the hospital. It was so interesting and informative to hear some of the success stories as well as some of the horror stories. I met Arlene there who told me about the Pinks. I could wait for the next support group because soon my radiation therapy will end and I need to find a more local support group. Arlene was there again, and she talked more about her dragon boat group. I approached her to find out more, and she introduced me to the LA Pink Dragons.
I was really curious and intrigued with the notion of dragon boat paddling. As soon as I completed my radiation therapy, and as tired as I felt, I showed up at Mother’s Beach and looked for Arlene, my recruiter. She was the only familiar face I knew and was thankful for that. After that first paddling practice, I decided that I needed to harness more energy to make it to this team. I looked to see what else I can do besides gym exercises to regain my lost energy.
I found Dahn yoga and as long as I’ve been doing yoga, I also continued to do dragon boat paddling. I never thought I would last this long since all my childhood, I was barred from participating in sports. Due to childhood rheumatism, my joints and ankles were always swollen and painful so, my doctor always wrote letters for my teacher at school to excuse me from physical education classes. My uncle became a doctor and prescribed me medications that made me well, or maybe my luck I outgrew my ailment. So, in college I was able to complete a mandatory swimming class and later on I tried different sports such as scuba diving, horseback riding and others but never stuck to anything as passionately as paddling.
There was something about paddling that makes me want to do it. A spirit inside me that is burning as if fueled by the fire spawned by the dragon’s mouth. A spirit to beat this cancer, to fight, survive and thrive, to compete in dragon boat races and enjoy each other’s company and camaraderie in all the PINK activities . This to me is the essence of PINK sisterhood.
I surprised myself with the consistency in practicing and doing my exercises to do better in paddling although I feel I have a long way to go to perfect the technique of this sport. Besides, the actual paddling, LAPD has also exposed me to other activities. I wish I could practice every Wednesday as I feel this will improve me a lot in the water, maybe when I retire.
The news about the PINKs being chosen by the South Pasadena Tournament of Rose Parade with a float titled “Still Winning”. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and very thankful for the privilege of being part of the team. It really thrills me to death as I have always wanted to see this actual parade let alone be with the team that I am so proud of to be part of. This is a dream come true.
Imagine, all because of breast cancer I started Dragon Boating, which introduced me to my teammate who designed the beautiful Rose Parade Float, where my little team has the honor of representing survivors everywhere and all of their inspirational stories. Thank you Anita for your amazing artistry and creativity and for giving us this “once in a lifetime” opportunity. This is a dream come true. Thank you LAPD for the great opportunities.
Diana A. Greenberg