Alison Nakasako’s mother is a breast-cancer survivor – which means her risk of contracting this type of cancer is higher than normal. Like many other women in the high-risk category, she started getting regular mammograms at 35.
And every time, the results came back normal.
“Two months after my last mammogram, I found a lump,” said the 43-year-old Bexley resident. “By that night, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and it had already spread into my lymph nodes. It was stage 3. I had the type of breast cancer that doesn’t show up on mammograms.”
This was March 2009 – and soon after Alison had a mastectomy, followed by chemo and radiation treatments, at The James.
“We’re so lucky to live where we do and have access to this wonderful medical center,” said Alison, whose doctor was Charles Shapiro. “He was just so wonderful.”
Alison is doing great – and will ride 100 miles at Pelotonia, joined by her husband, David. She is also the captain of the A Team peloton, which has 13 members.
“She is an amazing women who has the power to motivate everyone around her and make you feel as if anything is possible,” said Tamara Gosnell, a member of the A Team.
Tamara is also a member of Alison’s local “family,” who all helped her through her battle. Alison’s parents live in England (where Alison was born and grew up) and her father is too ill to travel, and David’s family lives in California. The couple moved from the West Coast to Bexley about five years ago.
As many Pelotonia riders have reported, their caregivers, whether they’re a spouse, parent of close friend, play a vital role in their physical recovery and emotional frame of mind. It helps to have caring, loving help.
“I went into this feeling isolated,” Alison said of her battle with breast cancer. “But our friends, our neighbors, sometimes people we barely knew, people from the kid’s school, were so incredibly generous with their time. We didn’t have to cook a meal for months. I think it’s something about the Midwest; community is so important to people here.”
Alison and David have two children: Jack, 9, and Tom, 7.
“My husband was amazing,” Alison said. “He held down a job and took care of me and the kids.”
David is a project manager for Limited Brands; Alison is a substitute teacher.
“Before it was ‘I have to work,’” she said. “Now, I want to go back to work; I enjoy it so much more.”
Alison had thought about riding in the first Pelotonia, but the chemo left her feeling too sick to train. This year, Alison and David will ride 100 miles.
“At this point I’m cautiously optimistic I can do 100 miles,” said Alison. “It won’t be easy, especially the second half and the hills. I came to exercise later in life, so if I can do this anybody can.”
Tamara is also new to cycling. “Most of us are not ‘real’ bikers,” she said of the A Team. “But we felt so moved by Alison’s cancer (that we had) to join this effort.”
Alison also wants to get the word out to other women: mammograms aren’t always enough, so perform self exams on a regular basis. “I found it by chance, I was scratching under my arm in the shower and felt it,” she said.
10 Things About Alison…
Around Hoover Reservoir
Something custom built
Favorite TV show
Brothers and Sisters
Favorite post-ride seal
A good chicken curry