Client Spotlight: Stories of Survival and Strength

Breast Cancer is a disease that impacts us all. We've found great strength in the stories of survival and support from our clients. This year we're highlight to amazingly strong women who are taking their heath into their own hands. One a cancer survivor and the other a previvor. Learn more about the journeys of Diane and Meredith and how they continue to be MegaStrong in their fight against cancer.

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I am actually a Previvor. I have the BRCA 1 gene mutation which puts me at higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. My dad's mother passed away at age 40 from breast cancer, which is why our family decided to get tested. The BRCA 1 mutation gives me up to an 87% chance of getting breast cancer. I try to incorporate things into my daily life to be proactive with health like working out, eating healthy (most of the time) and using mainly all natural products.

I did decide to have a propholatic double mastectomy 4 years ago to lower my risk of getting breast cancer. Studio 6 has been my work out of choice every sense then! It has helped me to stay strong and feel confident with my body! Everybody should know their risk of getting breast cancer.

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Last October I was diagnosed at age 58 with early stage breast cancer. For 18 years I had gone in for annual mammograms (always requesting the highest grade mammography available) because of something my gynecologist had told me when I was 40.  She said, 'Diane, the only predictable thing about breast cancer is its unpredictability.' 

Eighteen years later I realized she was right.

My lifestyle and genetic background showed no risk for breast cancer.  I was an avid runner for 37 years, and started cross training at Studio6 when they opened their Preston Forest location.  My recent physical included a manual breast exam and nothing unusual was found.   

Here’s what I now know: breast cancer is not always synonymous with lumps.  The type of breast cancer I had is called DCIS (Ductile carcinoma in situ) which is when abnormal cells are found in the lining of the breast milk duct.  DCIS is usually found through mammography.  

DCIS is considered the earliest form of breast cancer. The cancer I had was noninvasive, meaning it had not spread to my lymph nodes.  My cancer was not a lump so I would not have found it through a breast self-examination. 

When I was called by the mammography clinic that my results were abnormal, I asked for a copy of the mammography image.  Within 48 hours I drove to The Center for Breast Care at UT Southwestern Medical Center with my image and the radiologist there concluded that I needed a biopsy. I remember saying 'Why not me?' as I drove home that day.  I knew that breast cancer affected 1 in 8 women. Why should I think it wouldn’t hit me.  My biopsy was set for 7 am the next morning.  If I had breast cancer (which was confirmed a few days later), then I wanted to get going with what needed to be done.

How does exercise and specifically pilates prepare a woman for breast surgery?  The strength I gained from pilates and running allowed me to sit up after my mastectomy at Clements University Hospital, get off the gurney, walk to my bed, pivot and lay down.  I knew then that it was just a breast and I was going to be OK.  Three days later, I began walking in my neighborhood, resumed working, and three weeks later I stepped onto an AMT machine at Cooper Fitness Center for cardio workouts.  A few weeks later I made my way back out to the track to run again with my workout buddies.  Thanks to Julie, Emily, Nancy, Madelaine, Mike, Arnie, Johnny & others who exuded positive energy along the way. 

My 9 month recovery process involved three surgeries, 1) mastectomy on left side, 2) breast reconstruction on both sides and 3) nipple reconstruction on left side. Also included were biopsies, expander injection appointments and a medical tattoo.

There is a poster on the back wall of Studio6 that says ‘Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.’  This is a metaphor for life. Cancer happens, plans change and your life is re-routed for a while.  You are stronger than you realize.  This is not your first upset in life. Remind yourself how you have navigated successfully through other challenges and this will propel you forward.  Be an advocate for your own health.  Ask for a 3D mammogram.  Early detection of breast cancer gave me options.