Cancerversary-n. – 1._______________ 2. The anniversary of my first Cancer diagnosis
Part 3. Time to get healthy
I hadn’t felt right. Things were just weird. My spidey senses were going off and I had called my doctor to schedule an appointment. I wasn’t to see him for a few days. I just remember his words echoing in my head that I had been reversing the damages of the cancer with some of my new healthy habits.
On my way home from work one day on a whim I decided to stop at the drug store. Something told me to. Now I stood in the bathroom staring at the little white stick on the counter. The word “PREGNANT” was plain as day.
I remember going to the doctor’s office scared out of my mind. What if I was pregnant and had cervical cancer again? What would I do? After a battery of tests it was official. I still had no trace of cancer, but I did have something new. A miracle. I was going to have a baby.
Weeks later as my belly began to grow. I did as every woman does. I went to the mirror and pulled up my shirt to look at my growing belly. Then I saw them. Tan lines. Up until I found out I was pregnant I was still going to tanning beds. Yes, the multiple skin cancer survivor was still using tanning beds. Not unlike the lung cancer survivor who still smokes. It’s not right, it’s awful, don’t judge, but it happens.
The tan lines made me furious. How could I jeopardize my health? I now was bringing a baby into this world. I lost my father to a heart attack when I was 10, a heart attack that could have been prevented if he had taken care of his health. I refused to think of leaving my child without a mother. I got in the car and took my tanning bed membership card and returned it to the business. I walked in, handed it to them, and never went back.
Some people are blessed with what I call “pretty pregnant”. They look the same, have the nice round belly. No complications. They have the baby and walk out of the hospital in their pre-baby clothes. Then there was me. My body went on strike. It could fight cancer left and right with the gusto of Rocky, but pregnancy? Nope, my body decided it didn’t want any part of it. I was a high risk pregnancy, and I had a multitude of complications. My body swelled up. I looked like a long lost cousin of Jabba the Hut. Eventually I was put on bed rest. All through this miserable pregnancy, the part that mattered the most…I was carrying a healthy baby, boy.
Then after a long, painful attempt at vaginal delivery just shy of a scene from a horror movie where I practically grabbed my doctor by the shirt and said (well, yelled) “get him OUT OF ME” I was wheeled in for a C-section. My son was not coming out on his own, a C-section was now necessary. My doctor was prepping me for the C-section and noticed a very large scar on my lower abdomen. It was from one of my previous melanomas (remember? the one where the sun didn’t shine?). My doctor looked at me and said “I am going back in through this scar”. My beautiful, miracle of a healthy baby boy…was born via an opening made from an existing scar left by cancer. Something that could have killed me, was now giving life.
I made a private vow to God when I kissed my son for the first time. I vowed to be healthy, from now on. If not for me, but for this precious gift I was given. My son.
When I finally cleared the fog of postpartum depression (that’s a blog post for another time) and given the green light to resume exercise, I had a big mess to work with. My body was nowhere near what it once was. Pregnancy and childbirth took a toll on me. I needed help. I contacted a personal trainer. I could not do this on my own.
With her help I took my body and my health back. I made serious lifestyle changes. I hate the word “diet”. It’s lifestyle, not “diet”. You choose to eat healthy or you don’t. Calories in, calories out, garbage in, garbage out. You truly ARE what you eat. I started devouring all the information I could get on eating healthy, exercise and how the body works. My trainer put a bug in my ear to consider looking into becoming a personal trainer myself. I thank her for this, I would never be where I am today without her. Thank you Fatima Valeras.
Fast forward a few years. I am now a competitive athlete. I am sponsored by the great folks at Coolibar Sun Protective Clothing. I am an ambassador for Raw Elements Sunscreen. I have a feature by Runner’s World under my belt. I am a Certified Personal Trainer and Triathlon Coach and now work with my Coach Jeff Kline and the best team at PRSFit Nation. Most importantly I am on a mission to spread awareness and compassion for those affected by all cancers, but especially the one that won’t leave me alone, skin cancer.
I am haunted by what many have termed “Survivor Guilt”. Why have I survived and others haven’t? Why have I not had chemotherapy and others have? Cancer has no rhyme or reason and no two cases are the same. I raise money and donate to cancer research when I can. I became a Stephen Minister so I can provide support to others so they do not have to go through what I did. Cancer is cancer no matter what type or how severe.
I am living breathing proof early detection is the key to survival. So please…be healthy, and get regular checkups, if not for yourself, for those who love you. Your life matters. You matter.
Part 1. The Diagnosis
Part 2. Fighting the Demons
Still to come:
Part 4. My message to you