An Interview with Heather Schumm:
Amgen's Cambria Breakaway Mile Leader
This past week, San Luis Obispo County had the privilege of hosting the 2014 Amgen Tour of California. Arriving into Cambria on Wednesday, May 14 and departing from Pismo Beach on Thursday, May 15, this all-star event brought cyclists and cycling enthusiasts from all over the world to support the race.
In addition to being one of the top Tour de France-style races in the nation, the Amgen Tour of California supports a national initiative called Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer. This program was founded in 2005 and its goal is to increase and highlight important resources available to those who are affected by cancer.
In honor of this program, many Amgen cities hosted The Breakaway Mile, where Amgen invites those who have been touched by cancer – patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates to participate in a half-to-one-mile walk that honors and celebrates cancer survivors as part of Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer®. Cambria, CA had the honor to be one of the chosen cities to host the Breakaway Mile. Leading the walk was one of San Luis Obispo County's own cancer survivors Heather Schumm.
Here at Visit San Luis Obispo County, we had the opportunity to ask Heather a few questions about her life and her struggles with cancer. We also asked her about her goals in raising awareness. See below what she has to say.
Interview with Heather Schumm:
Q: Heather, can you tell us a little bit about your story?
A: I moved to San Luis Obispo County when I was in 8th grade, from San Diego County. It was one of the best things my parents did for me. I love it here.
I was 31 years old when I trained for Scott Tinley’s Olympic Distance Triathlon at Lopez Lake. I was running our family business, taking care of my toddler and infant daughters, and really busy! One day in September 2010 (a few weeks prior to the triathlon) I was nursing my youngest daughter, Genevieve, who had just turned 1 year old. I found a lump that I assumed was a clogged milk duct until a week later when it didn’t go away. I went to have it checked “just in case.” The doctor told me we should have more testing done “just in case” but I was too young for breast cancer so the chances were slim. Unfortunately, I wasn’t too young for breast cancer. The tumors were small but very aggressive so we moved forward very quickly. A series of interesting turns led me through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomy, radiation and reconstruction. Through all of my treatment I kept as active as possible, to meet goals I had set for the end of it all. I finished radiation in July 2011, finished the Disneyland 1Ž2 Marathon in September 2011, and Tour de Pink – a 3 day, 220 mile bike ride – in October 2011!
Q: How did you get involved in the Breakaway Mile?
A: I am passionate about inspiring others and giving back through the organizations that gave to me, specifically the Paso Robles Cancer Support Community and the Young Survival Coalition. I am on the Board of Directors at the Cancer Support Community, and when a couple of my fellow board members (as well as director) heard that they were looking for a Breakaway Champion – someone who gives back to their community and inspires others – they nominated me.
Q: Why is it important for the public to be aware of this program and how can they get involved?
A: Amgen’s Breakaway Mile is such a great event. They offer a true VIP experience to everyone who participates including survivors, caregivers, friends and family. The Breakaway Mile brings awareness to the community about the support available to them. This is very important to me as I believe that one of the most important things to do when you are diagnosed is to reach out to other survivors and support systems – its takes a team to “breakaway from cancer!”
Q: What are your goals with regards to educating people about cancer?
A: I want people to know and be aware that young women can and do get breast cancer, so please do regular self exams! Also, everyone needs to know their own body and what’s normal for them. I want people to know that if they are diagnosed with cancer, they don’t have to go through it alone. A cancer diagnosis can be very lonely, even with a lot of friends and family around to support you. Meeting other survivors who have been through it is invaluable. I want to inspire people to keep going, to move forward, one step at a time. If I can be even a tiny beam of light at the end of their tunnel, then I did my job.
Q: Where can we learn more and get involved?
A: You can learn about Amgen’s Breakaway Mile on their website: http://amgentourofcalifornia.com/amgen. Also like Breakaway From Cancer on Facebook. I encourage anyone who has been affected by cancer to sign up for the Breakaway Mile if it comes to their area (next year). It’s really an incredibly fun event.
To learn about some great organizations that mean so much me, visit their websites: Paso Robles Cancer Support Community: http://www.twcccc.org/ or call 805.238.4411. There you can find calendars of events, gatherings, meetings and many other local resources for any type of cancer, and for survivors, patients and caregivers alike. Young Survival Coalition, which offers support specifically to women diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40. They offer a great message board and connections to other young breast cancer survivors all over the world: http://www.youngsurvival.org/
In San Luis Obispo, the Hearst Cancer Resource Center located at French Hospital, where their “goal is to help persons with cancer learn about the disease, recognize opportunity for improved health, build a personal support system, and sense of extended family.”: http://www.frenchmedicalcenter.org/Medical_Services/Hearst_Cancer_Resource_Center/index.htm
There are many ways to get involved; these organizations are always looking for volunteers for fundraising events and more. These organizations run mostly on charitable contributions, so donations are also always much appreciated. After I rode in the first West Coast Tour de Pink following my treatment, I have ridden every year. This 220 mile bike riding experience is inexplicable. I have found so much love and inspiration from this event and the riders. Its awesome to see survivors, friends and family all riding to support the Young Survival Coalition and out LIVING life!! LIV/Giant Bicycles is the main sponsor of Tour de Pink, and the ride has always started in Thousand Oaks at LIV/Giant Headquarters.
This year they have chosen to start the first day in PASO ROBLES and the second day in SAN LUIS OBISPO! I am so excited to show all of my Tour de Pink family San Luis Obispo County!!! To read more about Tour de Pink (or sign up to RIDE the 3 day option or 1 day option): http://www.ysctourdepink.org/site/TR/TourdePink/TourdePink-WestCoast?fr_id=1401&pg=entry
To read more about my story or help me reach my fundraising goal for this ride: http://www.ysctourdepink.org/site/TR/TourdePink/TourdePink-WestCoast?px=1055110&pg=personal&fr_id=1401
Q: Lastly, what do you love most about San Luis Obispo County?
A: I love that San Luis Obispo County is a place where you can do and find just about anything! The ocean, the mountains, the vineyards…its all here. People here are friendly and the air is clean! It’s the best place to be and be healthy in California. I would also like to invite anyone who would like to talk to me, share their story, connect me to a friend going through cancer or learn more about Tour de Pink or the organizations listed about to please email me here.
Thank you to Heather for this great interview. You are an inspiration to all and we wish you the best in your future endeavors to raise awareness about cancer!