I was diagnosed with ER+PR+HER2+ breast cancer on February 3, 2012. villa familyAt the time I was only 33 years old and in the best shape of my life. I was an avid runner and had always participated in the local ½ marathons and 10ks. I had just completed my first full marathon two weeks prior, a goal that I knew I had to accomplish in 2012. I had my future planned. I was to get pregnant with our third and final baby in the spring. We were lucky enough to have two beautiful children already and were excited to complete our family. God had other plans for us.

After receiving my diagnosis I was in shock. I had no risk factors, no genetic predisposition. I found the most qualified and caring doctors at MDAnderson in Gilbert, AZ. My treatment included neoadjuvent chemotherapy, a double mastectomy in August, followed by a long process of reconstruction, and long term medication to keep the cancer at bay.

In mid July my oncologist from MDAnderson informed me that I was chosen to receive the Susan M. Turley Foundation ‘One Weekend Away’ “staycation”. I was so excited. My family and I needed a break from everything the past year had brought.jamie villa poolside

One week prior to my surgery, I drove by myself to the Four Seasons in Scottsdale, AZ. I had just dropped off the kids with my Mom and was looking forward to a few hours of solitude prior to my husband joining me.

My heart was heavy and I felt a bit emotionally numb as I took everything in. I was so grateful but at the same time I was so heartbroken that I had to have surgery in a few short days—a surgery that was to take away a part of my femininity. I tried to put the anxiety aside and went to relax by the pool. I enjoyed a giant sized pineapple drink, compliments of the very kind pool waitress. She shared in my “end of chemo” celebration. I laid by the pool in complete peace, reflecting back on the crazy year and being so thankful for the many blessings I have in my life – despite what was to come.

I woke up early the next morning to get a run and hike in before my massage.   It was a beautiful morning, a bit overcast. I ascended up the mountain stopping at a few points to take it all in. I couldn’t fight the tears any longer. As I ran and hiked I cried – but it felt good. I finally had a break from chemo, work, appointments, kids, obligations – I had some time to myself to do something I enjoyed and actually had the energy to do. I felt revitalized. I felt like myself for one last time before it all started again…the discomfort, the pain, the appointments, the exhaustion, the questions, the explanations…ugh! All I could think was I won’t be able to do this for a long while; I have to take advajamie and husbandntage of this time. Running has always been my outlet, my sanity. I completed my last run in my natural state. I was thankful with every step I took.

It has been the most difficult year of our lives. But from this year has come many blessings; quality time spent together as a family, a renewed appreciation for a strong marriage, strengthened relationships with friends, family, distant relatives, and childhood friends, and new friendships formed out of this experience.

We are forever grateful for the Susan M. Turley Foundation for giving us this incredible gift. I reflect back on this time often. It is a cherished memory. I hope that many others will be able to benefit from this wonderful cause.