[00:00:00] Adam Walker: From Susan G Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
Whether you are newly diagnosed, are in active treatment or completed treatment years ago, breast cancer affects how you feel inside and out. You have to cope with the emotional strain of the diagnosis and the physical challenges of treatment, as well as the stresses of daily life.
Even though your diagnosis may be similar to another person’s, the way breast cancer impacts your life is unique, much as the activities that help maintain your quality of life are unique. Today’s guest loves biking and quickly found that maintaining that activity throughout her treatment helped her feel like herself, her most happy and capable self.
Here to share her breast cancer story and how biking helped her through it is Maria Boustead. Maria, welcome to the show.
Well, I’m really excited to talk to you. I think it’s so important for us to understand just sort of how people approach dealing with their cancer. And I’m kind of excited that your, your way of doing it was through biking. So, but let’s start with your story. What, what, tell us about your breast cancer story.
And can you tell us about your diagnosis and what was going on in your life at that time?
[00:01:25] Maria Boustead: I guess it was earlier, very beginning of this year and I was just I’m 44 was 43 then. And I was just laying on the couch, kind of absentmindedly watching TV, texting with place sister, listening to my husband out of one ear, you know, normal week night. And I just was absentmindedly kind of. Scratched my armpits side boob area.
And instantly I was like, what’s that, you know, it kinda felt like, uh, I found a frozen pea under my skin and I was like, feel it, feel it with its alarm. I found a lump, you know, and I remember my husband put his hand and I could see like the look on his face too. He said, That’s hard. You know, I texted my sister and she wrote back, oh, I had some system in my breasts.
That’s probably what it is. Just go see the doctor as soon as possible. And I was kind of thinking. Overly concerned, just because of like, that’s probably just assists. I went to the doctor and she actually said, oh, that face, which made me also think it’s nothing, probably nothing, but let’s just do the imaging to be sure, you know, says, blah, blah, blah, you’re in your forties, breast get lumpy, then you know, it could be anything.
It’s probably nothing. Um, so again, I wasn’t like too concerned. And then I went to do the imaging and I could just tell. The mammogram and then the sonogram, when the doctor came in, this one, I got scared because I could see on her face concern, actually. That’s what she said. It was cause for concern. And then I felt like a brick fall on my stomach, you know, and I need you to get the biopsy.
So then the biopsy turned out to be cancer, but. Honestly, then I, maybe this is just my method of coping. I didn’t really feel that. That scared me to say now, I guess I was thinking it’s so early. I mean, I felt like I couldn’t even find the lump most of the time when I was, I had to talk to a doctor, I like keep like wiggling around getting to the same position I was on the couch.
I was like, oh, it’s so small. You thought it’s still early. Good for you. You know? And I guess I was thinking we would just like remove the lump and then. Go on my Merry way. You know, so maybe, and I remember referring to that as I can see both some little C little C cancer, you know? Um, um, and I think part of it was, I did have a lot going on in my personal life at the time.
And so maybe that was just my coping mechanism was to be like, I don’t have space for a big thing right now. So, I’m just going to make it a small thing to make sure I can continue going on with everything else I’m working on.
[00:04:18] Adam Walker: Well, I think that’s a, I guess there’s a fair way to cope with it. And let’s talk about that.
So, I know all this happened about the time you were getting your business off the ground. I mean, what was that like and what were the emotions like surrounding that.
[00:04:32] Maria Boustead: Well, I would say, um, I kind of felt like a sick joke. Honestly, I have had my own, my business is Po Campo and we make bike bags, stylish bike bags, and I’ve actually have had my business for a long time, over 10 years, but it wasn’t until the biking, boom and everything in the last two years that it’s really been picking up momentum.
And so. Felt like I had been toiling for a decade, you know, trying to get the business off the ground. And then all of a sudden I had this great tail in and I was just taking off. And so it was a Freeling time for the business. And I had embarked on my first, um, the attempt to raise capital to fuel that growth.
And that was a huge undertaking. It took me over a year. Raise my first round of finance or capital from investors. And at the beginning of this year was just when I was kind of wrapping it up and. The process to raise the money as like you’re pitching this big vision, you’re working on the plan to make it all happen.
Look like we’re going to get almost all the financing we needed. So all I wanted to do was kind of like hit the go button and I put my foot on the gas pedal and just like do everything that we have been talking about for the last year or six months, you know? And so. Uh, that’s when I felt like I couldn’t have cancer be a big thing, because I was like, no, I’ve just promised all these people were going to do these amazing things this year with this money.
And the timing is right and I have to make it happen, you know? So that’s what was going on, uh, in my world when all this diagnosis stuff was happening. And like I said, when I was thinking of it as cancer with a small C, I did feel like I got. I would admit I was probably selectively hearing. I don’t want any of my doctors to get mad at me for that.
So you’re saying something that they didn’t say, but what I heard was that it was a small lump is then take it out, trying to do radiation the way it needs to know. And I was like, fine, no problem. You know? Um, so that’s kinda like what I was going into everything with. And so it wasn’t until. Um, after the pathology report and those other tests to see how likely it is to come back with the name’s escaping me at the time, but your audience probably knows them.
Um, that the oncologist said that I should do chemo. And that was like, It was like, she told me on Monday and I want you to start it on Friday. And I was like, wait, what?
[00:07:15] Adam Walker: Wow, man, that, yeah, that’s quite the turnaround. And I understand that before starting chemo, you reached out to a friend for sort of tips on managing chemo when you were first getting started with that. I mean, what was her bias?
[00:07:28] Maria Boustead: Yeah, it was, I mean, it was really terrifying because it felt like. Um, to hear that news on Monday and I want to start on Friday and it was never in the program and I thought it was quite on the table for me. I knew there was a possibility, but I think he’d been like planned for it. You know, I just thought it was very a remote possibility. My mom had had, um, breast cancer and chemotherapy, and I remember she was just like laid out on the couch. So that’s my memory.
And I was like, I can’t do that. Um, and I reached out to a friend of mine who I knew had gone through it, and her advice was to be kind to yourself and do what you like to do. And then she wrote, keep biking. Um, so I was like, okay, you know, that, that was kind of my order.
[00:08:21] Adam Walker: I love that. Be kind to yourself.
And keep biking. Cause that was your thing. She knew you well enough to know your thing. So, but let’s, let’s talk about that. Biking was your thing it’s kinda helped you sort of get through that process. What were the ways that biking helped you through breast cancer and why was it so important?
[00:08:40] Maria Boustead: It was really.
The fatigue from the chemo was really debilitating. And the nurses all said like, you got to try to do, stay active as much as possible. So like on my worst days, really just walking around the block was about all I felt like I was up to. But as soon as the worst days kind of went away, I got back on my bike to bike to my office, which isn’t super far, um, or just around the neighborhood around the park or whatever.
And just trying to like. I really thought of it as saying active and not getting exercise. You know, I was like the whole point here is that I’m moving my legs. Doesn’t matter if I, um, am sweating or whatever. Um, I should point out to the listeners that I am, I do have an e-bike and I really recommend it.
Um, because, uh, for the days when. Have much energy. I was still able to ride and it really felt like a blessing. And I, you know, I really did. And especially the times when I would ride with my husband, I knew like I already kind of right on the slow side, but like cancer, Maria. So slow, you know, that I was able to pick up the juice on the e-bikes to keep up with him without having to push myself to heart.
Um, so the bank was really helpful just for that activity. So I was able to stay reasonably active through all of the treatment, um, with the bike. And I’m really, I do think that that helped me. Recover quicker,
[00:10:23] Adam Walker: plus e-bikes are just super cool. Right? So there’s that side of it.
[00:10:27] Maria Boustead: Yeah. You know, having to go your chemo is a perfect excuse to, um, it was also, um, you know, some of the other things besides just saying active.
Um, there’s two other things that buh-bye came to super handy for came in super handy for one was at the end of the it’s having cancer can feel so isolating, you know, because like, you don’t really want to tell them people, or at least I didn’t, because I don’t know. You just don’t feel like you have the energy for all the questions or you don’t really want sympathy or pity, you know?
Um, And especially coming off of like the COVID year where so many things were canceled, it just really felt like very lonely, you know? Um, um, and then, but I am a part of a couple bike groups and some of the. Rides, we’re starting again over the summer and it’s got to be like the perfect kind of social thing for me to do, you know, because I got to see my friends, but it’s not like we were like sitting around at a restaurant, just talking.
I didn’t tell anybody that was, you know, I had my helmet on and then we could see that I was wearing a scarf or a ball or anything, you know? Um, and I was able to just get together with friends and do this activity that we all enjoy and kind of chit chat while we’re writing and then go back home and go to bed, you know?
Um, and so that was really. Um, a wonderful way for me to maintain some social connection, um, with the bike. Um, the, I don’t think I would’ve known how to do that without, without those bike rides. So that was really great too. And then I guess when you kind of touched on it in your intro is, um, I took a deal with some of the depression, which for me, didn’t really happen until towards the end of treatment, which totally blindsided me.
Um, that, and look at my counselor said to just do the things you like to do. What do you like to do, Maria? Um, I don’t even remember what I like to do. I don’t like to do anything. Telltale signs, blue. She’s like, oh, come on, come on. I’m like, well, I like biking. She’s like, okay, why don’t you just leave your office right now and go for a bike ride.
I don’t feel like it just do it, you know? And I, it was truly, he, I would do. Just to like, okay, I’ll just do this fine. Make her happy. And, um, I do feel better, you know, and I think it was like, I do like to do this. There are things in life I like to do it didn’t make me feel like me. And, um, I think especially going through treatment and your, your body feels so strange to have.
Everything feels strange to have something that’s like, Nope, this is me, this, I like these things I’m capable. I can do this basically. You know, there’s going to be more of this when this is done. So
[00:13:25] Adam Walker: all of that. Yeah. I mean, it seems like it’d be so important to sort of have that activity. They can just be for you.
Right. And something you can even, even to some degree get lost in. I mean, that’s the kind of nice thing about biking is it requires that level of concentration where, where other things can sort of go away by the wayside at least temporarily. Right. And that’s kind of beautiful. I love that there was something else you said too.
That was interesting. I don’t think anybody else has ever said that on the podcast, which was that you didn’t really want to tell a lot of people because you just didn’t really have the energy to. Deal with all of the stuff that comes with that, like the pity and the other things. And honestly, I never really thought of that.
Um, so, so how many people did you end up telling and sort of, how did that go for you? Um,
[00:14:14] Maria Boustead: you know, not that many, obviously my close family, and then I think my mom told my extended, um, but I didn’t. Um, and yeah, so that, you know, and I, I have a smallest family and then. Maybe it’s just like half a dozen friends.
And obviously my colleagues because, um, I would knew I would need more support, um, and that I would be leaning on them more than normal. Um, and also to explain some of the business decisions I was making, which, like I said, I had like said, this is what we’re going to do this year. And then all of a sudden it was, it wasn’t quite that, you know?
Um, so to be able to explain that, but besides the work, I probably only told by half a dozen friends and it really was not like. I made a list of the people who were close to me and decided to just do the top six. So it was, it wasn’t like that at all. It was more like just the timing was just perfect.
You know, like I was at, I remember I was at a birthday party and a friend. We have known for while and that super close to the front, you know, she’s like, so what’s up with you? And just like the way she said it and what was going on at that time, I was like, well, actually something big has been going on with me, you know, whereas other good friends that I’m a lot closer with.
It’s just like the time like that never happens. So, you know, um, but I will say one thing, um, that those people all did, that was so helpful. I feel like I wouldn’t, I don’t know if I would have known to do this, the tables return. They all sent me like a text every week or two, just, just like to check in and say hi.
Um, and I don’t think I even wrote back all the time, but just that consistency of the check-ins and all that, you know, somebody thinking about me and caring about me and they’re, if I need them, it was really supportive and felt really good.
[00:16:15] Adam Walker: Wow. That’s great. And it’s good for, for, for those of us that are a part of support networks to know that those, those small things do make a difference.
And if we don’t get a text back, that’s okay. That’s okay. It’s not about getting a text back. It’s just about providing the support and being available. So that’s really fantastic. Well, uh, Maria, last question. What final piece of. Do you have for our listeners, um, or maybe for someone who’s feeling alone, uh, or going through a difficult time as you did?
[00:16:45] Maria Boustead: Well, I would say, uh, I, if you’re able to do this before you start your treatment or going through things to make a list of those things that you know, you like to do too, just so you have it, because I feel like when things are hard, it can be hard to remember, you know, No, just to be like, okay. I told myself I would do these things when I was feeling bad.
And so previous mean new something. I’m just going to do it, you know? Um, because I do think that being able to, uh, hold on to the. Things that make you happy or those relationships that make you happy and being able to go back to that, it really does help with the coping and just navigating through all the uncertainty and, um,
[00:17:38] Adam Walker: I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s great. I mean, honestly, that’s great for all of us to do really know the things that we love. And then in those moments of difficulty, um, go back to those things that we
[00:17:49] Maria Boustead: learned, right. For me, it’s going on a bike ride and baking bread, you know, and I just like those two things a lot.
And you know, when you’re feeling bad, it’s like, no, I don’t feel like it’s. Y, Y it seems dumb, you know, but then I start to do it. I’m like, well, they do like these things.
[00:18:06] Adam Walker: Yeah, that’s right. Wow. That’s fantastic. Well, this has been great. I really appreciate just so, so many of the insightful things that you’ve had to share with us and, um, you know, thank you for joining us on the show today.
[00:18:17] Maria Boustead: It’s been my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
[00:18:22] Adam Walker: Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.com. For more on breast cancer, visit komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, AdamJWalker.com.