Angela Wiant laughs at the notion.
"I've never been a huge runner," she says.
The breast cancer survivor and Kernersville resident walks, and she works out on a regular basis.
"I think it helped my mental state," says Wiant, 40, a wife and a mother of two. "It helped me not be as down for the count as I've heard happens to fellow cancer patients."
And on Sunday, bolstered by nearly 50 family members and friends comprising the Save 2nd Base team, she'll take part in the second All Mounds Matter 5K, benefiting Cancer Services.
"I want to show what my tribe has done for me and how they're still right there with me," Wiant says. "And we, as a tribe, still want to give back to others, support Cancer Services, support our community and let people know that you have to keep the hope and the positivity and keep going.
"Even in the struggle, there are blessings and silver linings to it all."
Below, Wiant shares her story.
BY ANGELA WIANT
It's been a journey.
Since my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, I was already having screening mammograms. My last one had just been earlier that year in March. I went to my primary-care doctor, who thought that it was just my normal anatomy but said "let’s get it checked now, no need to wait until March." It was January before I could get in for another mammogram.
I went in there thinking, "This is nothing. It's fine." I left that day with a radiologist telling me, "You need to come back for a biopsy. But I would not be surprised if this is cancer."
I went for a biopsy a week later. I fainted during the biopsy. Three days later, my results were available in myChart. I made my husband (Dave) read them because he knows the medical terminology; he works in radiation oncology. We sat there together and processed my diagnosis on a Monday night after we put our kids to bed. And the next day everything started with a phone call from the nurse. At 38 years old I was diagnosed with stage 2A triple-negative breast cancer.
Seven days later I had surgery to have a port placed, and the next day I started my first round of chemo. That first week was a whirlwind of appointments and phone calls to family and friends.
Husband: Dave, director of innovation and senior physicist, Cone Health, and chief technology officer, Fuse Oncology Inc.
Children: Natalie, 11; Weston, 8.
Day job: Marketing manager, Showhomes; also works in marketing for Corks & Boards.
We chose to be aggressive with my treatment plan. I had two different chemotherapy regimens. The first four infusions were every three weeks. Then I had 12 weekly infusions. Along with chemo, I received targeted immunotherapy infusions every three weeks for an entire year. Three weeks after finishing chemotherapy I underwent a bilateral mastectomy. In December 2022, I had breast reconstruction surgery. And in January 2023, I chose to have a risk-reducing surgery to remove my ovaries and uterus since genetic testing confirmed a BRCA2 mutation, which puts me at an increased risk for ovarian cancer. Finally in February 2023 I had my port removed: That was a big day for me.
My goal was to keep things normal for my kids (ages 7 and 10 when I was diagnosed). We made them aware of what was happening, but I had this attitude of “cancer is not going to affect them. I’m still going to do all the things I used to.”
So I stayed active. I was still doing my workouts. I was out walking the neighborhood. I was going to their activities and doing my best to keep things “normal.”
We created a chemo countdown as a family. We cut strips of paper and looped them together into a chain. There was a loop for each planned chemotherapy infusion, and after each one, the kids took turns ripping them off.
As much as I tried to keep things “normal,” life was far from normal for me. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I lost my hair, my eyebrows, and my eyelashes. My skin coloring changed. The physical changes were extremely hard because they were a constant reminder of what I was going through. I was on an emotional roller coaster. I chose to stay positive and strong, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There were hard days where I just cried and cried.
I had setbacks throughout my treatment. I got COVID, and my platelets counts would be too low for me to get treatment. At the time, those setbacks were tough. I remember thinking, "Why is this happening? What else can I take? I just want to keep moving forward and put all this behind me." At the beginning I remember looking at the calendar and thinking "I’ll be done with chemo on this day, I’ll have surgery on this day." I had this timeline in my mind, and when it changed, I was upset and angry.
But it all worked out. I was able to take my kids to their first sleep-away camp. I wasn't in surgery on my birthday (Aug. 22). I was home for the first day of school, making my kids smile for the standard first-day-of-school pictures.
Throughout it all, our friends and family, near and far, were incredible. Since Dave and I are both originally from the Midwest, we have a lot of family and friends out of state. They prayed with us. They prayed for us. They cried with us. Laughed with us. Our friend from the area brought us meals. They sent care packages. They picked up our kids. They treated them like their own. They came and stayed with us. They created Team Angela shirts and declared Pink Wednesdays. I would get photos from them, either wearing my shirt or wearing pink and supporting me from miles away. They told people who needed to know. They showed up with Oreos on rough days or ice cream sundaes. They just wrapped their arms around my family.
And it wasn't just the adults, it was all the kids, too. Our core group, that we call the K4, or Kernersville four families, is 16 people, and nine are kids. They asked questions and they wanted to learn and they wanted to be there. They offered to come style my wig, named for Moira, the "Schitt's Creek" character.
On the day of my last chemo infusion, so many of our friends that are here locally were outside of Wesley Long Cancer Center waiting for me. They all stood outside, and it was like 100 degrees that day, waiting for me to finish.
They had made signs; brought balloons, flowers and cupcakes; had a cowbell for me to ring; and even had several of my friends from out of state on a Zoom call.
This year, navigating survivorship, has been hard in its own way. Survivorship brings about a whole different set of hurdles, lingering side effects and new emotions. Support groups and connecting with other survivors have helped me. Late last year, I was introduced to fellow survivor Carrie Winterhoff. She, too, was on a breast cancer journey throughout 2022. We now get together routinely, and since our circles of support overlap, we decided to create a combined team for this year’s All Mounds Matter 5K.
My surgery in August 2022 showed I had a complete response to the treatment, and I'm now in maintenance mode. I take daily medication and rotate between my oncologist and surgeon every six months. I'm an early adopter of a blood test that can detect cancer reoccurrence at a much earlier stage. My thought was, “Why not? We can't advance, we can't get new treatments and even earlier detection, if you don't have early adopters of new methods or technologies.” I get my blood taken every three months, and it's tested and compared to my original pathology. I'm trying to do that and help advance science for people down the road. Since I know I’m a carrier of the BRCA2 genetic mutation, I worry for my kids. It could be either one of them in the future.
My journey was filled with silver linings. A lot of people say, “Why me?'” I kind of had the mentality of “why not me?” I have the support, and I have the people in my life to help me get through this. It caused my mom to get genetic testing and undergo a risk-reducing surgery. I now have the knowledge for my kids. I can be an advocate for other people to trust and listen to their bodies. I have a voice to do that. And not everyone does. And not everyone feels comfortable talking about it. I can talk about it and hopefully help somebody else.
When: 9 a.m. Sunday.
Where: 245 N. Main St., Kernersville.
Beneficiary: Cancer Services.
Event schedule: 9 a.m. – 5K. 9:15 a.m.– 1-mile run. 10 a.m. – Awards. 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. – Block party.
Information: Sign up, learn more and donate here.
Breast cancer signs and symptoms: Learn more from the American Cancer Society.
What does this year’s race mean to me?
Last year's race was just two months after I had completed chemo and my first surgery and could say I was officially cancer-free. I was so happy to be able to participate as I had just been released from surgical restrictions.
The All Mounds Matter 5K will be an annual symbol of survivorship to me and the start of making it to the other side of the mountain.
It means inspiring and supporting those who are, or have been, affected by cancer – directly or indirectly in our community.
It means remembering and honoring those that battled cancer but are no longer with us.
It's a celebration with my tribe that wrapped my family and me in their loving arms throughout my journey and continue to do so
And it's defending our "Largest Team" title!