I had just completed the greatest of my 12 marathons, the NYC Marathon! What an experience! I had never had so much fun at a race and I was determined to return the following year! In addition to this huge achievement, I had just been promoted at work. I was now one of the few women within my company who was poised to make a run for the top. I could see it now…Hope Galley, Vice President…Hope Galley, Marathon Runner…. Hope Galley, Super Mom! I felt as if all my hard work and dedication had paid off. And to top it off I was only 35 years old.
However, several months later, my life took a drastic turn. I had just completed a 13-mile run, and upon my return home, I noticed my leg was hurting and beginning to swell. I thought it had to be due to jet lag, lack of sleep, and dehydration. Therefore, I put ice on it, elevated it, and took in plenty of fluids. The following day my leg was worse, so I made the decision to go to the ER. At the ER, I was diagnosed with a blood clot! For me this was devastating news…. How could I have a blood clot? I thought only elderly people and/or people who did not move could get blood clots. I was not in either of those categories, so this news really threw me… I was told to get off my birth control pills and begin to administer enoxaparin (Lovenox) shots twice a day to manage the clot. I left the ER devastated…This was not in my plan. How was I going to get pregnant while I was on blood thinners? How could I have a clot with no family history?
I left the ER with the expectation that I would soon be through my blood clot ordeal. However, the ordeal was just beginning. For the next two months, my leg did not respond to treatment. I had great fatigue, and the pain only became more intense. I returned to the hospital, and they believed I had an infection. So, I was admitted into the hospital for 10 days while my blood was stabilized, and tubes put in the infected area to drain it. I went home with the tubes and was put on a daily regimen of IV drugs. Imagine being in your office with an IV pole, a PIC line in your arm, and trying to negotiate million-dollar deals. I look back at this time and laugh. I laugh at my overwhelming desire to get to the top, and I laugh at the doctors’ lack of knowledge of my true condition.
Three months later, all this madness finally came to an end. It was cancer! I had cancer! First a blood clot, and now cancer? How could it be? Actually, the blood clot was a warning sign for me and my medical team. My cancer, a squamous cell carcinoma, had wrapped around my femoral vein and was using the blood supply as a means to grow. My cancer was 12 centimeters in diameter and was wrapped around my femoral vein, my sciatic nerve, and my psoas muscle. My doctors assured me that they would try and make me as comfortable as possible through chemotherapy and radiation, but that they did not expect me to survive. This was not an option for me. I had never been one to take no…and I wasn’t about to start now.
So, I pulled out all the skills which helped me climb the corporate ladder…I made a list of questions. I interviewed several doctors. I reached out to my support teams at work and home. I found references for each hospital. I was on the biggest sales call of my life, and I needed to find the best of the best…
Two weeks after my diagnosis, the cancer was removed, and I endured several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation followed by more surgery and radiation. As a result of my treatment, I have lost almost complete use of my left leg. This has been a very difficult thing for an athlete like me. However, I have found a new outlet for my energy. I’m now a hand cyclist and I was even able to return and race in the NYC Marathon! Can you say comeback? If I can stress anything to you, first, know your body, and make sure you don’t ignore any symptoms, because they could be warning signs. Second, make sure you don’t take no for an answer! Third, leaders and athletes come in all forms, so don’t judge a person by a title or appearance….You never know what that person can bring to you and your life!
And in closing, my motto is, “When life throws you a wild card, don’t forget the rest of the cards in your deck!” AND…Special “shout out” to my dream team…. My family and friends! Thank you, thank you, thank you for your love and support!!!