Cindy Ortiz – Founder and President
I am Cindy Ortiz, a 35 year old physical therapist and founder of Pink Up The Pace.
I was diagnosed on Wednesday January 7th, 2009 with Stage 2 Breast Cancer poorly differentiated ductal carcinoma. At the time of my diagnosis I felt like I had gotten on a roller coaster ride that fell off the track taking me in different directions with many loops and turns.
It all started the summer of 2008 when I felt and noticed a lump on my right breast. At that time, I was told it was a cyst by my physician. The options presented to me were to either drain the cyst or allow my body to get rid of it on its own. I decided to do the least invasive procedure and keep it since there appeared to be no concerns as long as I kept an eye on it. Towards the end of October, I noticed that it had started getting bigger and I could see it not just feel it. I became concerned and saw my OBGYN doctor. At that point she referred me to a breast specialist because she thought it was a fibroadenoma.
Aside from the lump, I felt fine. I had just finished running the inaugural San Antonio Rock-n-Roll marathon in November. The Sunday prior to finding out the results of the biopsy, I had signed up to compete in my first half ironman. Who would have thought that such a thing could happen to me at the age of 28?
January 7th, I had my lumpectomy and axillary node dissection. I had 16 doses of chemo that began in February and finished in June. Like many cancer patients I lost my hair, eyelashes and most of my eyebrows. I underwent 33 treatments of radiation which ended in September.
How did I survive the 9 months of 2009? Aside from family, friends and work, it was Cancer survivors that have gave me the courage to overcome that chapter in my life. As I sat in the chair receiving chemo, I wanted to give up and let the disease take its course. However, as I looked around at all the other cancer patients of all different age groups enduring similar treatments, I realized that I was not alone in this journey. In the process, I met and joined a sisterhood of fighters, people I passed everyday or knew and yet did not know their struggles and accomplishments until I became one of them. Women and men come out from hiding when they saw a friend in need, shared their story and returned to their daily routines as much as they could. It is a bond that cannot be explained and once the connection has been made you are locked in it for life. That is how I met Amy Kaelin, a survivor and friend, who can share my feelings, emotions and thoughts because unfortunately she has been there.
Throughout my journey I felt numb to the whole experience. I sometimes felt it was a dream until I look back at pictures and notice all the physical changes that I had to endure. The hardest thing that I learned is that life goes on even though circumstances slowed me down. I am not immortal anymore and I cannot keep running from myself. It’s okay to listen to your thoughts, be scared, sad and lost. Life is not always what you have hoped or expected, but you are here. No matter what is thrown your way, you always have an option to keep pushing and trying because it can always be worse.
When I look at myself now in 2015, I am reminded that I am not who I once was nor do I know who I will be in the future. For now I am a women, a runner, a wife, a mother and a breast cancer survivor trying to make a difference. As a result, Pink Up The Pace was established.
I wanted to educate and bring awareness to the community about early detection. As a physical therapist, I was schooled to always approach things conservatively. So with that in mind, I thought that if one is hands-on and familiar with their body, people can hopefully catch lumps early either in a benign or an early stage. Three weeks after my diagnosis, my mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer. The reason she was diagnosed is because after my surgery she decided to be proactive about the lump she had also felt a couple of months prior but had not been too concerned about. What are the chances that two family members have the same diagnosis in the same month?
I also wanted PUTP to help individuals in financial need because one of the main reasons my mom did not actively question her lump initially was because she did not have health insurance. Breast cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in women (skin cancer is number one) and the second leading cause of cancer death. I decided to turn an unfortunate personal situation into a positive one and make a difference.
Amy Kaelin – Co-Founder
Hello everyone, welcome back to Pink Up The Pace 2015! As I move into my third year as a breast cancer survivor, I am thrilled to again be a part of Cindy’s team with this charity event. After a very successful inaugural race in 2009 and continued success the past 6 years, I am happy to be a part of the biggest 5k in St. Augustine! Cindy Ortiz, founder of PUTP, continues to be a force with her efforts to produce another amazing race for St. Augustine and the surrounding counties.
I have been fortunate to come into 2015 with no signs of cancer recurrence. As we all know, life can change in an instant and it’s impossible to be ready for that moment. I continue to face different challenges in life now as a breast cancer survivor. For me, I find there to be lasting effects on not only your physical person but emotionally and mentally also. Fortunately, due to my work as an ultrasound technologist performing breast imaging, I find my experience as a breast cancer patient to be useful and comforting to my patients as they face the uncertainty of imaging and potentially biopsy. Even more rewarding has been the opportunity to volunteer with Pink Up The Pace and offer assistance to young women that are in need of imaging and unable to afford the costs.
Time, oddly, seems to fly by through good times and bad. As I continue living and sharing my mother’s favorite saying “this too shall pass”, I’ve watched a cousin be diagnosed and treated for breast cancer and Cindy and I have attended the funeral of a very dear young woman who lost her fight against this disease. It is often difficult to make sense of it all, as my work in breast imaging keeps me constantly on the front lines in the diagnosis of breast cancer, sometimes seeing as many as three cancers a week.
I am hopeful that Pink Up The Pace will continue to grow and fulfill my and Cindy’s vision of providing early diagnosis to young women and education to all women. We have expanded the Board for Pink Up the Pace to include some new faces and ideas of other women affected by this disease either personally or in their circle of friends. We have exciting plans for the future but will take one year at a time adding to this growing charity. We hope everyone will stay and grow with us!
A Note from Cindy & Amy
As much as we do not wish cancer among anyone it is a disease that sadly affects many people healthy and unhealthy. The important thing is to be aware of your body and be your own advocate of your health, If you do not feel comfortable with your doctor find one that answers your questions and that you feel comfortable with.
We look back at the bad times during our diagnosis and treatments but recall that “things always happen for a reason.” That reason was that it brought us together, allowed us to create Pink Up The Pace, give back and become the best friends a girl can every ask for.