June 12, 2009: one year to the day after I graduated nursing school, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A month before I was diagnosed, I mentioned to my doctor during a casual conversation that my sister had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. When I told him which type she had, he said, “you’re going for a mammogram.” No questions. I was 35 yrs old, not old enough to start getting regularly scheduled mammograms, and terrified.
Two mammograms and one biopsy later, I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcimoma in Situ, aka non-invasive breast cancer. I was given 2 options. Option 1: a lumpectomy where only the tumor is removed, followed by 5 weeks of radiation, followed by 5 years of Tomaxafin, an oral chemo drug. Option 2: a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction with no guarantee that I wouldn’t need chemo and radiation with that option until the surgeon had me in the OR.
I had my mastectomy on July 31, 2009.
In the weeks that preceded my surgery, all sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. My Dad died from lung cancer in 2001. I had only been an RN for 10 months buth I knew how quickly cases like this can turn in the wrong direction. I went from feeling that I would beat it, to feeling like I was just handed a death sentence. I was living in West Virginia, 5 hours away from my family, and that made it harder.August 7, 2009: my surgeon called me to give me the pathology results. Those results were the final decision as to whether or not I would need chemo and radiation. I can still hear her words loud and clear to this day. “We got it all. Congratulations, Melissa. You’re a breast cancer survivor”.
That was six years ago, and I still cry joyful tears when I think of that phone call.
My reconstruction process took months but once it was complete, I wanted to get in shape and lose weight. I tried walking and eating better, but I still wasn’t seeing any results. I even trained for and walked 60 miles in the Susan G Komen 3-Day Walk for The Cure.
March 17, 2011: I joined Weight Watchers and in one year, I lost 62.5 lbs. I started running and I ran two half marathons in 2012. But one day at work, one of my fellow RNs showed me an article about this new “drumming workout”. Knowing I’m friends with “The Drummer at the Wrong Gig” on YouTube, she said, “since you’re so fond of your drummer boy, here’s a workout for you to try!”August 13, 2012: I took my very first POUND class with Joyce in NYC. I had no idea after that first class how my life would change with a workout.
January 4, 2014: I resigned from my job at the WVU Hospital and I headed to Los Angeles to start my career as a traveling RN the next day. I joined CRUNCH and started going to POUND 3-4 days a week. The more I took POUND, and the more I talked to people in class, I felt like I wanted to teach POUND one day.
July 20, 2014: I became a certified POUND Pro!! I always thought about how cool it would be to become a fitness instructor but I didn’t think I had the courage and the confidence to get up in front of a class and teach. Having the love and support from my fellow POUND Pros changed all of that.
I believe having gone through what I went through with breast cancer made me a stronger, more determined person even more than I was before. It taught me to go for my dreams even if the only one who believes in me is me.
I don’t have my own class yet but I’m working in NYC as a nurse and when I go to POUND class, my fellow Pros will point to me and tell the students, “if you can’t see me, watch Melissa here. She’s a POUND Pro, too”. Being able to be an example in class makes me feel like an asset.
I am blessed to be part of an awesome group of POUND Pros. The love and support we give each other is beyond measure. Several months ago, I stopped running and gained some of the weight back that I lost but Christie Joyce inspired me to set a goal for myself that would require discipline. I started running again. I’ll be running my 3rd half marathon for this year on October 31st, and next year, on March 5th, I’m running my first full marathon!
Doing POUND regularly helped me maintain my initial weight loss plus I’ve lost an additional 30lbs in the last year.
I’m going to close with the most important part of my journey. My sister, Bonnie is 10 years older than me. It was her commitment to her own health that she and I are both 6-year breast cancer survivors. She was diagnosed just 4 months before me.