Fighting back

mvoorhis@sierrastar.comMay 13, 2014 

For more than a decade, Eva Busto has walked with the Relay for Life teams for both her employer of 35 years, Sierra Telephone, and her church, Oakhurst Lutheran. The walk has significant meaning for Busto, who not only has lost friends to cancer, but is a cancer survivor herself.

Now age 59, Busto was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 43. She had gone in for a routine mammogram and after further testing, was given the news that she had stage one cancer in her left breast.

"I was shocked when I heard the diagnosis," Busto said. "This was basically my second mammogram. My first one was at age 40 and I was healthy then."

Busto was so shaken by the news that she had her teenage daughter, Jessica, who had just obtained her driver's license, drive home.

Pro-active, Busto saw two different surgeons and was given two different options: to have a lumpectomy and undergo radiation; or have a mastectomy and then reconstructive surgery.

"Because of the location of the cancer, I didn't want to have radiation, and decided to have the mastectomy instead," Busto continued.

It was a decision Busto was comfortable in making, and was supported by her husband of just a few short years, Jeff.

Within two months of her diagnosis, Busto underwent a mastectomy.

"It's just amazing to me that I didn't have as much pain as I thought I would. I was only in the hospital overnight, and was home the next day. The drains were painful, but that was about it."

Busto took a month off work at Sierra Telephone to recuperate. Her Fresno surgeon, Dr. John Burnett, recommended that she completely heal before having reconstruction. That took six months. During that time, Busto kept busy with work and her teenage daughter. The busyness kept her mind off herself and left little time for depression.

For Busto, the reconstructive surgery was much more painful than the mastectomy. The common surgical technique back then was tram flap surgery, which is no longer used today.

"They cut me from hip to hip, took one of my abdominal muscles and severed it at the base, then folded it upon itself to make the breast," Busto explained. The procedure now is to use tissue, not muscle.

Once she had recuperated from reconstructive surgery, it was extremely painful for her to move much. Naturally, she started questioning whether she had made the right decision, and talked with Dr. Burnett.

"He told me I had to move, to work through the pain, so I started walking. Then I started running, then power-walking. Now I'm competitively running," Busto added.

Since 2002, she has been involved in the Smokey Bear run, and in 2011, ran the Boston Marathon. She and her running Buddy, Christine Lawrence, typically meet at 5 a.m., running five miles, four days a week. During marathon training, days and times increase.

It took several tries for Busto to qualify for the 2011 Boston Marathon, and finally in July 2010, with a finishing time of 4:11, she did just that.

"Running the Boston Marathon was the absolute highlight of all my running experiences," Busto explained. "To date, I have run a total of 11 half-marathons and 17 marathons in five states, and plan on continuing my quest to run a marathon in each of the 50 states."

"Having cancer changes you," Busto continued. "You look at life and family differently and you re-prioritize what's important."

Besides running, Busto made other life changes following her diagnosis, including dietary. She now eats better, consumes minimal fast foods, little sugar, little red meats and eats lots of greens.

"Still," she admitted, "I do indulge in a Forks or Millers burger at least once or twice during the summer."

She has also accomplished a goal that had long been on her to-do list.

"I had always wanted to return to college, but never could find the time," she continued. "Life always got in the way. So, after cancer, I decided I had better get with the program if I wanted it to happen."

Busto began taking classes online, as well as attending evening courses. She received her AS in Computer Science, graduating from Reedley College, and then later graduating from Fresno State with a Bachelors of Science in Business.

"I dodged the bullet. I've had surgery, but I'm very very fortunate that I didn't have to undergo chemo or radiation. I've had wonderful support from so many along my journey," Busto said. "My husband, Jeff, our children Julian and Jessica, my sisters, my best friend Heidi, my running buddy Christine, my church family and my Sierra Tel family have been a huge part of my ongoing support team."

To ensure she remains in good health and cancer-free, Busto has an annual mammogram and sees her oncologist for blood work. She is also encouraged by the personal knowledge that her maternal aunt, at the age of 50, had a radical mastectomy due to breast cancer; she just celebrated her 90th birthday last month and remains cancer-free.

Relay for Life

This year's Relay for Life returns to Yosemite High School May 17 and 18. "You can be a Hero" is the theme, and relay teams are encouraged to decorate their campsites and wear costumes depicting their favorite super heroes.

Breast cancer survivor Jody Jo Mise of KISS Country 93.7 FM will make a special appearance at 9 a.m., Saturday, May 17, during opening ceremonies, which will celebrate survivors, progress, accomplishments and hope.

The cancer survivors will start the relay by taking the first lap around the track at 9:30 a.m., and are invited to the annual Survivor's Breakfast immediately following the survivor's lap. All survivors are welcome and encouraged to attend. Breakfast will be catered by Crab Cakes Restaurant and there will be a raffle, speakers and entertainment.

For the kids, the Oakhurst Mountain Lions Club has sponsored "Kid's Endzone," which includes a bounce house; games, arts and crafts will also be offered. Other activities include the Crazy Hat Contest or the Road to Recovery car race featuring Flintstone-style cars built by teams, watermelon and pie eating contests, various entertainers, and DJs all day and all night long.

The 24-hour event will wrap up with a closing ceremony at 9 a.m. May 18, where attendees will be energized to keep fighting against the disease throughout the coming year.

All proceeds from the event benefit the Central Valley Chapter of the American Cancer Society. Proceeds help with research, advocacy, patient services, and the "Look Good, Feel Better" program.

There are currently 25 teams signed-up for the event including three student led teams from Yosemite High, two from Minarets High, and teams from Coarsegold Elementary, Rivergold Elementary, Spring Valley School and Oakhurst Elementary School. There are also teams from Oakhurst Lutheran Church and Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church. Oakhurst Lutheran Church has consistently been the top fundraising team at the event.

Details: Tami Michel, (559) 658-1410, Linda Maddox, (559) 760-2614, Donna Gavelo, (559) 451-0163, relayforlife.org/easternmaderacountyca.

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