The day my doctor told me that I had breast cancer, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I literally wanted to vomit. I didn’t cry, immediately, as he shared his understanding of how I felt. But how could he ever understand? He’s a male. He was a tall, white guy talking to a Black woman about her diagnosis. At some point his words were like Charlie Brown’s teacher…wonk, wonk, wonk. His mouth was moving but his words were foreign to me: calcification, lumpectomy, radiation, oncologist. I was not ready!

Since 2009, I have been the picture of good health. My grandmother died in 2001 of heart disease and heart attack. I realized, then,  the family history of heart disease when I thought back to three of her children passing away, as well, due to heart attack. My life’s mission started then. My personal goal was to create a lifestyle so that I would not have to worry about heart disease. As a matter of fact, two months before my breast cancer diagnosis, I participated in a health screening at work and all of my numbers were perfect! Heck yea! Cholesterol perfect, blood pressure perfect, blood sugar perfect! I walked out feeling like I’m doing something right. Fast forward two months later and my mammogram detects breast cancer. Imagine the shock! Here I am trying to prevent and/or reduce my risk of the number one killer of women, cardiovascular disease and I develop breast cancer instead. In my southern grandma’s voice, I thought: “I’ll be damned!”

As a personal trainer and health coach, this was hard. I started to question everything. Was it the pizza that I love to eat every now and then? Maybe it was the margaritas on Taco Tuesday. Oh yea, and then there’s the low calorie sweetener packets I use in my water almost every day. My brain got tired from trying to rationalize how a healthy person can get cancer. The truth is, which I knew, is that a woman can do all the healthy things and still acquire breast cancer. It is an uncontrollable illness that can happen to any woman. However, as women, we can be diligent in putting our health first by doing self-breast exams and getting yearly screenings. Thankfully, my breast cancer was caught via mammogram at the pre-cancer stage. So I did something right by seeing my doctor on-time. 

Even though I had a moment of impostor-syndrome and imagined that all of my self-care and exercise had been in vain, I picked myself up, dusted my shoulders off, and found the good in my situation. I get to share my story with women in hopes that they will take the initiative to put health first. Yes, we all are a statistic in some form or fashion, but we can create a healthy lifestyle that decreases our risk of disease. But, good health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it. So, I’ll continue eating healthier, exercise often, and take moments to love and enjoy being a woman despite the challenges of life.

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