Malibu cancer survivor takes stance of ‘warrior’

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Malibu resident Angelique Pitney took part in last year’s EIF Revlon Run/Walk and set that as an ultimate goal in beating cancer. It took place on May 8, 2010, two months to the date from her last chemotherapy treatment. She will participate in Saturday’s run/walk at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Angelique Pitney’s focus on battling cancer was to “stay positive and fight like hell.”

By Paul Sisolak / Special to The Malibu Times

A Malibu cancer survivor is urging local residents to take part in an awareness event this weekend that support research and prevention for cancer affecting women.

The 18th annual EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women, a 5K race taking place Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum, follows last week’s New York City version, which drew more than 20,000 people.

Saturday’s L.A. run is expected to attract twice that amount and remains an important event for Angelique Pitney, who raised more than $15,000 last year toward developing medications and screenings after she was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer in 2009.

Pitney, now 46, is a mother of two who began a sudden battle with the disease after a pair of mammograms turned up nothing. But Pitney discovered a lump in her right breast and her doctors, who at first told her it would subside, soon classified the 3-by-7 centimeter tumor as Stage 2 cancer.

“The first three tests I had said I was fine and should just go home and live my life,” she said. “But I had cancer.”

Pitney was plunged headlong into dealing with a cancer patient’s worst fears and burdens-six aggressive rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, the hair and weight loss, the drained energy, the uncertainty surrounding her own mortality. Financial worries constrained the Pitney family, too, when some MRI testing costs weren’t covered by their health insurance and, later, when Pitney received a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Complications with her pectoral muscles arose from the latter operation and there were other risks as well-Pitney’s immune system was vulnerable to the elements, at a time when H1N1 was on the public’s mind.

What could have been discouraging was the fact that Pitney’s cancer was a fluke; the longtime Malibu resident was health-minded and fit, didn’t smoke and made organic foods the template for her family’s kitchen. But Pitney found optimism and a will to live, undaunted by the challenge. She also found support from the U.S. Armed Forces. Pitney had told her mother that her body was the Marines and her cancer, the enemy forces; her mother relayed the analogy to Charles Krulak and the former Marine head gave her a special coin in appreciation.

“I was very clear about what I was willing to do. I wanted to do everything,” she said. “I watched my sister-in-law suffer from metastasized cancer and I didn’t want that to happen to me. I didn’t want to read about a lot of scary stories. My goal is to stay positive and fight like hell, and have a good life.”

Pitney first took part in last year’s EIF Revlon Run/Walk and set that as an ultimate goal in beating cancer. It took place on May 8, 2010, two months to the date from her last chemo treatment. Even more important was the emphasis it placed on Herceptin, the drug approved for the treatment of early-stage breast cancer developed through funds raised from the walk.

Saturday’s event will also help to unite cancer survivors, and to raise awareness to the prevalence of breast cancer, which caused the deaths of nearly 40,000 U.S. women last year.

“What the walks do is remind us that it could be anyone,” Pitney said. “They bring a lot of people together in a place and a time that is supportive of us who have gone through it. I think the biggest lesson is if I can get it, anyone can.”

A writer by trade, Pitney shuns conventional terminologies and would like to introduce more hope and positivity into the language of living with, and beating, cancer.

“I don’t like the word ‘remission,’” she said. “It sounds like lying in wait. I like ‘cancer free.’”

She added to that, “’Survivor’ to me sounds passive. We’re all warriors. We’re not giving up, as long as you don’t give up.”

Saturday’s walk at Exposition Park, which begins at 8:15 a.m., is the 18th such event and has garnered more than $60 million in grant monies since it was started in 1994. Celebrity attendees this weekend, according to a press release, will include Malibu’s Halle Berry, Eric Stonestreet, Alyson Hannigan, Carrie Ann Inaba and Kimberley Locke. More information can be obtained online at www.revlonrunwalk.org