Every year in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we love to highlight special posse members who have been affected by breast cancer. Every story and fight is different, however, they all share the same qualities of strength, resilience and courage. Today we have the privilege of sharing the story of POUND Pro, Corey Calligano. She found POUND in the midst of her fight and it became the “therapy” she needed. By cranking up the music and letting it take her away she found her inner rockstar. She fought not only for her life but also her mental health. This is her story.
One ordinary night, as I was taking a shower, I found a lump in my left breast. My world turned upside down as I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of 2012. After extensive testing, I was then diagnosed with stage 2B cancer and told that it was aggressively growing while also finding out I was estrogen and Her2 positive. The cancer had also traveled to my lymph nodes under my left armpit. I was only 30 years old, with no family history of breast cancer, and my three children were only eight, six, and one years old. It was something I never expected or saw coming.
For five months, I underwent a total of sixteen chemotherapy treatments. It was followed by a lumpectomy which removed 19 of my lymph nodes in my armpit, 33 radiation treatments, herceptin for a year (which is a milder form of chemo), and was prescribed Tamoxifen, which is a form of hormone therapy. During this time, I lost my hair and became very ill. I also developed Lymphedema (swelling) in my left arm because of the lymph nodes that were removed, and I will have to watch and control this for the rest of my life. My journey on the Tamoxifen meds ended after three years (instead of the predicted five), which I was grateful for because they caused horrible mood swings, night sweats, weight gain, and other unpleasant and difficult to manage symptoms. Throughout my treatments, I journaled about my experience, every test, every treatment, every up and down, until I was finally told that I was breast cancer free.
In October 2016, at 34 years old, my kids then being twelve, ten, and five, I went in for a routine mammogram and was told that my breast cancer had come back in the same breast. After fighting so hard for so long, it was devastating to have it come back so soon after I was told I was in the clear. My doctor launched me right back into treatments, this time Zoladex injections that put me into menopause, and I ended up having a double mastectomy a few months later. Two weeks after my surgery, I was rushed to the hospital for an infection in my right expander, and needed an immediate surgery to remove it. I wasn’t able to have breast reconstruction as planned, and was told I’d need to wait at least four months before attempting reconstruction again.
After my surgery my self-esteem plummeted. During this time, when I just needed something to hold onto, I started exercising. Everyone was worried about me and didn’t want me to hurt myself, but I couldn’t just sit around waiting. For my own mental health, I needed to find something to get me moving, something to bring me out of my ‘treatment world’. This is when I discovered POUND, and absolutely fell in love. My injections would make me moody, depressed, and all around crappy, so I pretty much threw myself into my POUND classes and my new found community.
“It made me feel so much better to crank up the music and POUND the Ripstix® on the floor as hard as I could, it was the best way I found to release my emotions and get my aggression out. It became my therapy.”
That’s when I decided I needed to teach. I was determined to show everyone—and most importantly, myself—that I could complete this 8-hour training, get my certification, and move forward with my life. And I did it!
I never actually taught a class. It was never about teaching for me, or about making money. For me, POUND was a little bit of sun shining through the clouds. Something to look forward to each day. It got me through and lifted my spirits. After about 4 months, I was able to start surgeries again and eventually ended up with implants and feeling great about myself again. I am now breast cancer free, and still enjoy my regular classes! I’ll always be grateful for the magic I found in POUND.
This past January, Corey wrote and published a book all about the last six years of her life. Support and read “I’m Still Here, Journaling Through the Pink Ribbon” now available on Amazon, Kindle and Nook.