To celebrate breast cancer awareness month I decided that holding an ax overhead would be appropriate for the occasion! I’d love nothing more than to take this ax and smash cancer in the head if such an action were even possible. This is more like the reaction I had when first diagnosed with stage one breast cancer! I will never forget the day the surgeon called to inform me that I had breast cancer. I could feel my heart pounding; I was sweating and realized that I would soon be joining the ranks of many other women who will face the same diagnosis and some even worse. The first thing I felt was extreme fear, disappointment, defeat, hopelessness and then rage!
This is not the typical article about breast cancer awareness and all the pretty pink ribbons that will be scattered all over the globe for the month of October. According to www.Breastcancer.org one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and about 40,000 women will die in 2014 from this awful disease! I am very saddened by these statistics but I also find them to be infuriating when I see the devastation it causes for so many women and the families left behind. We need a cure and prevention and we need it fast. Not only is your health affected but your job and professional life suffer as well. Many cancer patients are left financially devastated with no real solutions at the end of treatment.
I was going through the biopsies and was concerned about facing cancer treatment and how that would affect my training and had been in a meeting with my doctors when I saw a woman and her husband in their approximate seventies leaving the surgeon’s office together. The woman was crying really hard and I could only guess that she was facing terminal cancer and didn’t have much time. I felt very sad for this older woman because she could be someone’s mother, grandmother, sister and wife and I can’t imagine what she was facing. When you see someone else really suffer you tend to look at things a little different than before.
A MAJOR SETBACK – BUT A TEMPORARY ONE!
I had just landed an awesome new career opportunity and was busy packing and on my way to another city to start sales training. I was so determined to move forward with my career that after my first breast biopsy I still went to my third interview with the vice president of the company while wearing a sports bra and my breast packed in ice! Not an easy task while carrying a laptop and wearing a business suit.
I was also going to do my first NPC show in either bodybuilding or figure and had been training for over a year. I was in the best shape of my life and then suddenly I was facing extreme financial devastation, unemployment, cancer treatment and possible bankruptcy all at once! I lost the job, had no health insurance or money to pay for treatment and was facing a nightmare. I was also facing the possibility of an early death! I felt extreme defeat and hopelessness with not much of a future to look forward to.
The only way I could cope with the stress of suddenly losing everything was to hit the gym and train harder than ever! I developed the attitude that if I’m going to die then at least I’ll go out fighting!
I had to ignore the naysayers and focus because I had just one life to lose. I was in total survival mode and even trained the night before my cancer surgery. I actually walked into the operating room with sore legs and a smile on my face! I do have to admit that once inside the OR I glanced around at all the hi-tech equipment and surgical tools – it was pretty scary to look at. I jokingly said that I would not be making it to the gym that night and then I woke up in the recovery room!
A LIFE CHANGE FOR MANY
I will never forget the first time I went to the hospital for my first breast biopsy! I had to go to the oncology department to receive an IV treatment of DDAVP so I wouldn’t have any bleeding during the procedure. I sat in the department and was totally horrified to see so many older people receive chemo treatments.
They all looked near death and most had lost their hair and it saddened me to think about what they all had to suffer through. I thought about my own mother and grandmother and how I’d feel if they had to endure this. I just wanted to grab the IV, yank it out of my arm and run out the door and forget this ever happened!
Many times I questioned if I could even go through with the treatment! Thankfully, Allegheny General Hospital Breast Cancer Center has the most amazing people working there! The support I received was awesome and I had the best doctors around.
THE ARNOLD EXPO!
I had to pack up my apartment in Cincinnati and move back to my hometown to face treatment. I was passing through Columbus, Ohio, and went to the Arnold Expo. I met many pro bodybuilders and had pictures taken and they gave me autographed photos and wished me the best with my health! Looking at all of these amazing athletes made me even more determined than before to get through treatment and continue to train with the goal of competing.
I had three weeks to go before cancer surgery so I just couldn’t resist a challenge! I did the USMC men’s fitness challenge and squeezed out as many pull-ups as I could! Every year I have gone back and beat my previous personal record just for fun. One year I even did the Air Force fitness challenge and did a pull-up wearing a fifty pound flak jacket!
Arnold Expo Air Force Fitness Challenge
A NEW ROAD TO TRAVEL FOR MANY
Many women are facing breast cancer at younger ages and all I can give them is a sense of hope by using my own journey through this process of treatment and healing. I published a motivational eBook and used my own story to demonstrate what I did to try and stay focused and positive. It’s very important to have a strong network of friends and support. I don’t think I could have made this journey without many answered prayers, family and good friends. Even former coworkers sent me cards and boxes of candy and flowers. No one should ever face this journey alone!
Feel free to check out my blog for more information at www.fitsurvivor.com