“ Cancer is not a gift but cancer made me realize that each day is a gift.
Runi Limary is a extremely driven mAss Kicker! She is a patient navigator at the Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas. She also is the Co-Chair of the Brain Power 5K walk. After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she used her experiences to become a strong patient advocate. We were able to find time in her busy schedule to ask here a few questions.
mK: Thanks for doing this Runi! What/ when was your diagnosis? How did you find out about your diagnosis?
RL: It’s not a day that I can easily forget. I was diagnosed with early stage invasive breast cancer on November 16, 2005. My surgeon gave me the news in her office. She was just as surprised as I was since the mammogram, ultrasound and fine needle aspiration all came back negative.
mK: What were your symptoms?
RL: I was 28 and busy with life. Besides a palpable lump I found in July 2005, or five months earlier, I felt just fine. My general practitioner kept assuring me that it was nothing since I was so young and healthy. She did order a mammogram and ultrasound but all signs pointed towards a benign cysts. My lump felt as if it continued to grow so that was when I pressed to see a surgeon. Sure enough, it doubled in size within 4 months. The surgeon agreed to do the fine needle aspiration and to remove the lump since it grew so quickly.
mK: There is nothing you can do to prepare for the shock… Why did you get involved with advocacy? What do you do for Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas? How about the Brain Power 5K?
RL: I got into advocacy because I was fortunate to get diagnosed with a cancer that had much more funding and support than other cancers. It made me want to continue to do amazing work in the breast cancer world but it also made me realize that I wanted to help other cancers that did not have as much funding, recognition and support.
I’m a Patient Navigator at the Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas (BCRC.) I educate and support women and their loved ones from the moment they have a suspicious finding, to diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and even end of life. Each cancer and each client are unique. My initial contact with them helps me determine the support they may need. I try to eliminate barriers related to insurance, employment, family relationships, inability to pay for services and end-of-life decisions. At the BCRC we offer numerous support groups. I facilitate several of them with a focus on our younger clients.
I met Kelly Bolinger, founder and brain child of Brain Power 5K, through a cancer exercise group in Austin. We had many things in our lives that parallel each other and most importantly we both had passion to make a difference in this world. We became fast friends and even called each other Sis. I got involved with the Brain Power 5K because of Kelly. I wanted to help an underfunded and under recognized group and Kelly’s story inspired me to help her cause. I’ve met so many people touched by brain cancer throughout my involvement with the Brain Power 5K. I see how much Kelly and the BP5K have touched so many lives. It’s given those touched by brain cancer hope, a voice, a group, acceptance and funds for research. I will continue to be involved with the BP5K until Kelly kicks me out.
mK: HAHAHA! We think you’ll be there for a while. Who is your hero or heroes?
RL: My heroes are all the men and women who selflessly makes a positive impact each and every single day. I honestly believe one person can make a difference.
mK: So, what motivates you?
RL: I felt as if I was given a second chance in life and that motivates me to try to leave a lasting impact on this Earth.
mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
RL: Good question! The “new normal” is tough. There are days I feel great while there are other days that I don’t. It’s hard to decipher whether my bad days are lingering side effects from my treatment or simply just getting older. A cancer diagnosis already makes you questions your mortality. Cancer treatment challenges me both mentally and physically. I’m many years out and it still challenges me on a daily basis.
That was the long answer to your question. The short answer is that two weeks after my last chemo I ran the 5K portion in a marathon relay. I ran the fourth leg and was so worn down and beaten from chemo treatment. I kept chanting to myself that, “I will beat cancer.” There were times I wanted to give up but I didn’t. I believe there are so many good people out there. Someone that ran the previous leg came back to run with his friend and at the same time he encouraged me to not give up. The three of us finished roughly at the same time and I owe it to him for pushing me. I ran that 5K in 33:12 minutes and felt as if I reclaimed my body back.
mK: AWESOME! What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
RL: My boyfriend fits the bill for all the above! But seriously, he is such a big kid at heart with a great sense of humor that he constantly makes me laugh and puts a huge smile on my face.
I cry when my clients pass away. I cry for all the loved ones they leave behind. I cry because I miss my beloved Chocolate Lab. He comforted me throughout my treatment; he was my teddy bear!
Cancer makes me angry. Mean people, selfish people, inequality and violence makes me angry.
mK: Emotions are what make us human. They can unite us! What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
RL: One of the more interesting things I’ve done and that I’m most proud of is that I was one of the plaintiffs in a monumental case. Cancer gave me the courage to take a stand against a large corporation and to put my entire life out there to be a plaintiff to help all men and women take back their genes. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. On June 13, 2013 the Supreme Court ruled in our favor and I already see positive strides just shortly after the ruling.
mK: What was the toughest challenge you faced as a survivor? How did you overcome it?
RL: Cancer made me feel as if I lost my innocence. It made me think about my mortality at a young age. It changed me both physically and mentally. I try to stay present and focus on what I can do to be proactive. I try to eat well, exercise, laugh often and live with no regrets.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
RL: I think I could bathe in chocolate, coffee and wine. These all are high in antioxidants, right?
mK: Hee hee… If you could trade places with anyone you personally know, who would it be? What would you do?
RL: I have a friend that travels so much that I call her my world traveler. She usually has an international trip planned each month. I would easily trade with her so I could see the world!
mK: Freaky Friday for travel… What do you like to do in your spare time?
RL: I love to travel, exercise and spend time with my loved ones.
mK: You obviously have the travel bug! What are you up to now?
RL: My work at the Breast Cancer Resource Center keeps me busy. I navigate many newly diagnosed women and those with recurrence and metastasis each day.
It’s also time to gear up for this year’s Brain Power 5K so that will most likely keep me out of trouble.
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
RL: Be an advocate for yourself by asking questions and learning about your diagnosis and treatment. Learn to ask for help and learn to accept help because you can pay it forward once you’re able. Focus on the present and what you can change when you get overwhelmed.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
RL: I’m a big scaredy cat so I force myself to step out of my comfort zone each year. To name a few, I’ve paraglided, zipline, rode on a motorcycle, and sang and danced with the Beach Boys.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
RL: Cancer is not a gift but cancer made me realize that each day is a gift. Each day take time to laugh, appreciate and enjoy whatever warms your heart.
Runi Limary: “Anti-oxidant” junkie, travel enthusiast, self proclaimed “scaredy cat”, and powerful post treatment thriver advocate. Thanks again for doing this! Check out the resources at Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas.