Surviving Cancer: An Athlete’s Story

When you are a woman over 40, you go in for your yearly mammogram. We all do it, we all hate it, but we know it is a necessity.  But this time, the radiologist wants to speak with you.  Hmmm…this isn’t good.

They do an ultrasound on the spot and find something, but they won’t tell you what it is.  This really isn’t good.

Before you know it, they have scheduled you for a biopsy.  All your friends and family tell you not to worry; you are young, healthy and fit you have nothing to worry about.  You continue on with your life because your family depends on you.  But inevitably there are moments when the darkness creeps in, and you realize you might have cancer.

The phone call finally comes in with the results.  At this point, you have already spent about 4-6 weeks trying to convince yourself you are fine. Then, your doctor says, “You have breast cancer”.

You don’t really hear much after those words are spoken to you. I spent the next few weeks conducting research to figure out what this means.  What I have learned is that we all have a different journey both medically and emotionally. I will share my emotional journey. How I coped with having breast cancer. How I made it to being a survivor and am living my life to its fullest.

My first revelation was during my meeting with the Breast Care Center at Beth Israel.  I meet with the Nurse Practitioner, my surgeon, and the social worker.  The staff at Beth Israel was absolutely amazing.  They where all very caring and supportive and made me feel as though I was in good hands.

After that first visit, I was very out of sorts and I couldn’t figure out what made me feel this way.  Finally, after a few days, I figured it out. I realized it was the way they were treating me — not badly, but it was the look in their eyes, the calmness in their voices — it was completely unnerving.  I felt like they were treating me as if I was going to die.

I called the social worker and explained that they way they were treating me was scaring me to death (no pun intended).  I also explained that I was not only an athlete, but also a coach’s daughter, and I needed a “buck-up talk” – not the calm voices and emphatetic eyes! What I needed was, “You are going to beat this and this is the treatment plan and we are going to get through this.  Are you with me? Then let’s do this!”  This is how I approached life and how I needed to deal with my treatment. Once a coach’s daughter always a coach’s daughter!!!!

My first piece of advice is: Figure out what type of support you need.   I can remember my social worker chasing me down the hall at the hospital to make sure I was okay!  She wanted me to attend a support group at the hospital.  A group of strangers to share my innermost fears  – my worst nightmare!

I was fortunate to have two good friends and a sister-in-law who were also athletes and had gone through cancer treatment (and are still going through treatment). They shared their experiences with me, their ups and downs, their fears. They could understand how important it was for me to get back playing tennis again. Once I could play again, that meant I was normal, not just a women with cancer.   These three women were MY support group!  They are what helped me through.

Lastly, the value of Koko.  When (Koko Sudbury co-owner) Paul Romeo asked me to write this article, he specifically said, “Don’t make it about Koko.”  But, honestly, for me it was about Koko.  Not only from the conditioning Koko provided, but, also from the support I got from the owners, staff, and members during one of the most difficult times in my life.  Having always been an athlete and fit, for the first time in my life, being completely incapacitated for months on end was depressing and scary.

Koko and the workout routine I do there allowed me to get back on my feet, get back in shape, and back on the court in a fairly short time.  I underwent two surgeries beginning on December 15, finished my last radiation treatment on April 4, and played in my first tennis tournament May 31.  Now, I admit it was one of the ugliest matches I have played, but it was still a win!  I could never have accomplished this without the combination of nutrition, the support of my family and friends, and most of all, Koko.

In conclusion, once the shock is over, work with your medical staff to develop your plan. For me, my plan consisted of not only the medical treatment plan, but, other avenues like working with a nutrionist on how best to eat going forward to prevent the cancer from coming back.  I am dedicated to staying fit and continue to compete in tennis. I am focused on staying healthy so I may continue to enjoy and take care of my family.  I continue to try to keep a positive attitude through all the continued doctor’s appointments and follow up visits. (Believe me, it is not always easy.) I still take one pill every day that serves as a daily reminder of what has happened.

I have a lot to live for.  I am lucky to live in one of the best areas of the country for cancer treatment.

I am being watched closely.  I am a survivor.  I am young, healthy, and Koko fit!

________________________

To learn more about Koko FitClub’s Breast Cancer Recovery strength training program, visit a Koko FitClub near you, and talk to your doctor.


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About Michael Wood, Chief Fitness Officer
Michael Wood, CSCS, is Chief Fitness Officer at Koko FitClub, driving the development of integrated strength and cardio training and nutrition programs for Koko members nationwide. A nationally acclaimed fitness expert, Michael has conducted research as a Senior Exercise Physiologist at the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory at the Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and has lectured at Boston University and the University of Connecticut. He has been named Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” Personal Trainer, and made the Men’s Journal “Dream Team” list of the nine best trainers in the U.S. Michael and his family live in North Attleboro, MA.

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