Battle Stories: January 2022
We are starting a new blog series! Battle Stories will share stories from our community.
Everybody's experience with cancer is so personal but many of us experience similar thoughts and feelings. We want to create a place to share our stories so we can offload, understand, support and inspire.
Do you have a story you'd like to share? Tell us here to be featured :)
Our first Story is from someone very special to us, Colleen, who lives in Iowa in the USA and we had the pleasure of meeting in person at the 2021 CrossFit Games. Here, Colleen tells us her experience of cancer in her own words.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer, specifically invasive ductal carcinoma, triple positive, stage 2a, grade 3 on April 1, 2021.
I am not sure if you celebrate April Fools Day in the UK, but it’s a day we play small jokes on others for fun. It’s celebrated every April 1. This was not a fun joke. I was 34 at the time of my diagnosis and married to my husband Brian and mom to two girls - Madeline age 5 and Olivia age 1.
I was in the best shape of my life and had just finished doing the CrossFit Open. I even got my first chest to bars and Pr’d my lift on the final open workout!
I found my own lump. A 2.8cm mass in my left breast. I had a second lump in the same breast that was 1.7cm. I knew instantly that it was cancer, but due to COVID, the doctor wouldn’t see me for 8 weeks.
I had been vaccinated and they insisted it was a swollen lymph node from the vaccine. I went in for a mammogram as soon as I was able and they immediately did an ultrasound. I had a biopsy the following day and found out the next day that it was cancer. The results came to my phone before they even got to the doctor. I spent 90 minutes sitting with my husband, staring at my phone, crying, before the doctor could confirm what I was reading. Cancer. I was 34. I was healthy. I had no family history. I did everything right and I was still facing a terrifying fate.
Annie was programmed the day before my biopsy. I did the workout knowing I was going to get terrible news soon. I couldn’t do the class WOD the day of my diagnosis because I was sore from my biopsy but I could run. I ran a 5k, all by myself, trying to make sense of this new world I was being thrown into. I had no idea what was about to happen, but I sure wasn’t going down without a fight.
My gym family at Crossfit 151 rallied behind me from day one. They were my refuge. We did a community WOD before all of my procedures began. They had my back 100%.
I had my port placed the following week. We were thankful to learn that the cancer hadn’t spread past my breasts and I was ready to start chemo.
I have an amazing oncology team. I started 12 rounds of chemotherapy (Taxol, Herceptin, and Perjeta). I shaved my head six weeks in. Again, the first place I went after shaving my head was to the gym. My husband didn’t miss an appointment. The cancer centre never knew quite what to do with us. I wasn’t your typical cancer patient. I refused to accept no for an answer to anything. I refused to let cancer win. I started documenting my experience on Instagram. I’m an introvert at heart, but the first thing I did after being diagnosed was to search the Internet for reassurance.
I wanted to try to give that same hope to a woman who would, unfortunately, also find herself facing this diagnosis.
I finished chemo on June 28th, 2021. We got to go to the CrossFit Games that august. That was an amazing experience where I got to meet Scott, connect with Barbells for Boobs and attend one of Mat Fraser’s workouts. Talk about an amazing weekend!
I was feeling great about ending chemo and was prepping for my double mastectomy that was scheduled for August 4th.
I came back home so recharged from that trip. I had my double mastectomy on 8/4 and got a call from my oncologist on 8/9 that there was no residual cancer found at the time of surgery. I was officially cancer-free! It was such an amazing feeling.
I spent several weeks rehabbing and recovering after surgery. I couldn’t even move my arms for about two or three weeks! Barbells for Boobs has been instrumental in helping me develop a recovery plan and making sure I come back even stronger!
I have a second surgery scheduled for December 13th. I will also be in active treatment until May which means infusions every three weeks. I’m also in forced menopause and will be on hormone blockers for at least ten years. All of this means new challenges for life and for fitness, but I am so thankful that I have a chance to keep pushing the boundaries of what cancer means.
I refuse to let it control me. Prior to my cancer diagnosis I lost over 100 pounds from my heaviest weight and I am confident that finding my health allowed me to find my cancer and tackle it head-on. I do not let myself think about what might have happened if I hadn’t found CrossFit and taken back my health four years ago.
My family has been my rock through all of this. My girls inspire me each and every day. They are so full of life. They have never once seen me as my illness. Hair or no hair, I’m just Mom. There is so much peace in that. My husband Brian is incredible. His support has never wavered and giving up was never an option. He pushed me forward on days I needed it and held me up on days I was falling apart. He didn’t ask for cancer to enter his life either but he’s been just as strong as I have had to be.
Here are some more pics of this crazy journey. I’m hoping to fundraise $2500 by December 31. :). Let me know if there is anything else you need!