Kelly Russo

My life changed after one annual routine mammogram.

I had been planning my routine annual mammogram, the kind you tend to postpone a few months after your last yearly check-up. To my astonishment, I received a call back informing me that the doctor had “noticed something” but couldn’t be sure due to dense breast tissue. Following an ultrasound and biopsy on June 5th-6th, a radiologist delivered the shocking news on June 12th: I had invasive carcinoma.

Tears streaming, I crumpled to the floor, all I could think of was finding the best doctor as quickly as possible. In just three weeks, I was scheduled to participate in an Ironman 70.3 race, with a full Ironman slated for September. Physically, I felt perfectly fine. This couldn’t be happening to me, and I was not about to let it stop me.

The very next day, I found myself in Dr. Jennifer Reed’s office, blurting out my plans for the Ironman events in three weeks and September. I needed to know how long I would be sidelined. After an MRI, another ultrasound, and a genetic test, my surgery was booked for July 5th, just three days after the 70.3 event. Fortunately, I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, and my genetic tests yielded positive results.

I proudly donned my Ironman finisher t-shirt and medal from the IM 70.3 Happy Valley race on the way to and from my surgery. Although it took a few weeks to recover, I resumed some light training within days, went for a run just a week later, and received clearance to swim again after two weeks. Recognizing that I had missed out on significant training weekends, I made the decision to switch to Ironman Arizona in November 2023. Just six weeks after my surgery, I completed a three-mile open water swim race!

Cancer has presented its challenges, and radiation has been demanding. Yet, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from family, friends, and the incredible athlete community in the 757 area. When I cross the finish line at Ironman Arizona on November 19, 2023, I will proudly do so as a cancer survivor!

I want to express my heartfelt thanks for the Smile Kit. As I write this, I’m currently undergoing radiation treatment, and your support means the world to me.

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