When she was just 34 years old, with two young children at home, Renee Plodzik received a stage 0 breast cancer diagnosis. A mastectomy was a success and no further treatment was needed. Grateful for her outcome, Renee turned her focus to advocacy: “there is so much in the breast cancer world about early detection and so little about support after you have been diagnosed.” She put an intense focus on health and wellness, even writing a cookbook. She also launched Fit for a Cause, which is a donation only fitness and wellness program that helps engage the community in wellness events geared at getting families involved and outdoors. All funding goes to support local cancer survivors.
For nearly a decade, Renee thrived in survivorship. She went on to have her third child and continued her active lifestyle. When hip pain, believed to be from overuse, got worse, she got an MRI. On her 42nd birthday she got a call that would change her life: “I just had a feeling when I was leaving and an hour later I got a call I had metastatic lesions through my hip bone and pelvis.” It was a crushing blow that catapulted Renee and her family into an entirely different breast cancer world. Of that first year, she notes how difficult it was saying, “the entire first year was just really hard days trying to keep my previous life with this added weight of treatment and emotional stress of a new diagnosis. I cried every single day.” Her community provided immense support, showing up with meals or joining her for a workout. She also began networking with the metastatic community, which helped shift her view and “focus on the living instead of preparing for the dying.”
She also attended The Runway Show, New England in 2022, which helped her feel hopeful about a stage 4 diagnosis, which can bring different emotions around breast cancer than other diagnoses: “how do I support my family and my children? How do I allow the community to support me? We are living, but living with the grief of the loss our family is going to experience.” The show allowed her to feel that “no matter what happens, we will be ok.”
For now, Renee has learned to live in three month cycles, with good scans allowing her to plan for the next three months: “I know at some point that those scans aren’t going to be as good. I try to live for today because today is beautiful, but I do allow myself to have the grace to have tough moments.“
Along the way, she has been open and transparent with her children and she hopes it has taught them resiliency, while also being ok with moments of hardship and crying. She notes that “maybe I am not strong enough to live through a metastatic diagnosis, but I am strong enough to live with a metastatic diagnosis.” Living with that diagnosis means keeping up with wellness of diet and exercise, having a great counselor and a supportive palliative care team. At the end of the day Renee notes, “all that anxiety and worry takes up so much space. I am ok today- cancer does not win out today.”