Romp to Stomp manager Joan Davids kept body, soul together through breast cancer battle
October 29, 2013
It was the toughest mogul run Joan Davids would ever have to ski.
She stood on the precipice, a long, twisting hill out of focus ahead. She didn't know where it would take her, but she knew it wouldn't be easy.
The 62-year-old with blonde hair and bike-short tan lines was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 48. She found her own lump one month after her annual mammography.
Small breasted, with an athletic build and bright eyes, Davids is a 14-year survivor and the event manager of the annual Romp to Stomp in Frisco, a snowshoe event raising money for the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer research.
With no family history of breast cancer — a common myth, Davids says — and a healthy, active lifestyle, the diagnosis was surprising, to say the least.
"I always knew exercise and controlling my weight was important," she said. "But I never had a problem, personally."
Many breast cancers feed on estrogen, and the more fat a person has, the more estrogen they likely produce. Davids said women who have had cancer in particular have to limit their fat intake.
"I looked healthy, I was active, and if I could get it, well, anyone could," she said.
After approaching her gynecologist, Davids was told to wait a month and when the lump remained, even an ultrasound couldn't confirm a problem. Finally, as the stress level built, a biopsy confirmed it was cancer. It was her husband's birthday.
"Because of the cystic situation, they all feel like jelly beans in a bag," she said. "My nurse told me, 'You need to learn the geography of your breast.'"
At stage 1A, the breast cancer had been caught early, and had not spread to the lymph nodes. But in the year 1999, even with that diagnosis and size, the protocol was still chemo and radiation, Davids said. Now, she probably wouldn't have done chemo, given the small size of the cancer to begin with. But from November until the next July, Davids went through an exhaustive treatment process.
Taking a medical leave from her job at IBM, Davids managed the chemo well, loosing very little hair and having only a few days of nausea or tiredness. She was even able to come to Colorado and ski that winter, planning for her eventually move to the state.
Davids finds "remission" an odd term, a cautionary stopgap.
"What I call it is I'm living with cancer," she said. "My probability of getting cancer again is heightened because I've had it once. The word remission, it feels like the word says you're really OK."
Davids lives her day-to-day life normally, working out at the Silverthorne Recreation Center with her husband or cleaning her rain gutters. But she still sees an oncologist to get blood work done, and of course, goes in for her mammography every year. Like any other health situation, she said, she has to stay on top of it.
While in chemo and radiation, Davids began fundraising for a Boy Scout camp, which eventually led her to her passion for helping raise money for breast cancer research. She said it was good to get involved in something else during that time.
Two weeks after her radiation was complete, Davids made the move to Colorado in 2000.
"It really was turning the page for me in my life," she said.
At 48, she was too young, she said, to retire. Having worked for IBM her whole life, she knew she wanted to help others. Eventually, she started work on the Romp to Stomp and 12 years later, the event has raised $952,000. Davids also worked to raise funds for a digital mammography machine in the county.
Since the event takes eight to nine months of her year to plan, Davids is retiring after this upcoming year's event, slowing down and taking more time to travel and even help with some government research on breast cancer. A recent broken hip was worse than the cancer, she said, because she had to sit around and do nothing for three months.
For her, making it down through the many moguls, reaching the bottom of the slope and looking back up to where she began, Davids said she knew was better off having run the course.
"I look back at my breast cancer and say though it sounds strange, it was a good thing for me, my life has been enhanced," she said.
For more information about Romp to Stomp, visit http://www.tubbsromptostomp.com/co/. The next meeting of a local coping with cancer support group is at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 21 at the Shaw Cancer Center in Frisco, 730 N. Summit Boulevard #102.