One minute I am training clients, prepping for my next weekly radio episode and writing articles for my blog, the next minute, I am in total shock from listening to the voice on the other end of the phone line tell me that my biopsy results are cancerous!
I honestly can’t explain what hearing those words did to me and to my very soul. For one, I NEVER, EVER expected to hear them and Two, I just knew there was some mistake being perpetuated on me. Maybe I was an unknowing victim of the “Punked” or “Candid Camera” TV show? All I could muster up to say was “Really?”
This diagnosis hit me especially hard because my husband, Alvin, and I were just getting back on track after he suffered a devastating stroke in January of 2011. And here it is July and now I’m the one in devastation. For four grueling months, Alvin had gone through intense rehab to combat the paralysis of his entire right side. Always my hero, he’d come through like a champ and was now back at work and even driving himself, as if nothing had happened. But now this! “What cruel joke was I thrust into the midst of?” I thought to myself. I also feared that telling my still recovering husband about my diagnosis would send him into a relapse. But never the less, he had to know and together, we had to put some plans in place.
As we drove to the doctor’s office for my initial test results, my mind raced with thoughts of “What if?” What if I had the aggressive type of breast cancer that’s hard to treat and kills Black women like me? Will I lose my breasts? Will I lose my hair, my life? What about my clients? My business? My family? So many questions, but I did get my answers.
My doctor, Dr. Carrie Stallings, was beyond wonderful. She answered all my questions, gave me a breakdown of my options, put some of my fears to rest and helped us to get our plans together.
I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. The lump was really small, but the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes on my left side. I opted to have a Bi-Lateral (Double) Mastectomy, with reconstruction. My decision shocked some and calmed others, but in the end, I made the best decision for me and I don’t regret it at all.
Since my cancer was stage II, the protocol for treatment following surgery, was 6 weeks of chemotherapy followed by 5 years of hormone therapy. I agreed with the treatment and in August of 2011, entered into survival mode, with the surgery and chemotherapy treatments.
All was not smooth sailing because even though I was insured through my husband’s company, they tried to say that my condition was pre-existing and refused to pay for my ANY of my treatments. This fight went on until late October, when they finally relented after being threatened with being reported to the insurance commissioner and behind the diligent efforts of the insurance advocate at my husband’s job. She was a godsend.
My wonderfully awesome plastic surgeon was Dr. Diane Alexander of Artisan Plastic Surgery. There are actually three of them in the practice and they all made me feel so special. Actually, the entire staff was wonderful and caring. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience as a patient.
The final part of my team includes Georgia Cancer Specialists and my oncologist, Dr. Karti Subbannan. She and her staff at the Mansell Road office are awesome. Her nurse Jaime made it her mission to make sure that I was as comfortable as I could be while going through all the treatments.
From the moment I was initially diagnosed, I knew that I could not, would not keep this news to myself. I informed all my clients and even went public with it in my blog, on my radio show and writing about it for a couple of publications. The outpouring of support was overwhelming and a source of healing for me and my husband and family.
Although I wasn’t able to train clients during my recovery and chemo treatments, I was able to stay involved in the fitness industry throughout my journey. I continued to host my radio show and when I didn’t feel up to it, I let my audience know and asked them for their understanding. I became a Fitness Director for a local gym, where I was able to encourage people to stay healthy by being active gym members and I blogged and blogged and blogged.
I even launched my online fitness community, Fitness Mattrz, in the midst of it all. I conducted interviews, searched for and secured coaches and instructors for the site and designed every aspect of the site from the ground up. The site launched in April of 2012.
By keeping my mind and spirit in the game, I was able to come through the surgery, the chemo treatments, the hair loss, weakness, sickness and constant trips to the doctor, clinic and medical labs with a renewed since of purpose. I am rebuilding my in-person clientele, but I am also building my online fitness coaching presence at the same time.
“Don’t Give in and Don’t Give up!” that was my motto, and everyday, I willed myself to keep moving forward. Surrounding myself with supportive people and strengthening my Faith in God helped me to get through the devastation of a horrible diagnosis a better, stronger person, entrepreneur, mom, grandmom and wife.