When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I truly didn't worry. I didn't have that OMG moment of floor-dropping, anxiety-inducing panic that you sometimes associate with receiving such news. I just simply thought, ‘well that puts a dent in my plans.’ From that moment on, I set my mind to staying positive, focusing on the end goal and getting through one step of treatment at a time. I didn't beat myself up when I had to stay home from work and or from teaching my fitness classes for five weeks — which is shocking considering how much I’ve beaten myself up over much lesser issues, like the size of a pair of jeans.
Once the surgeries were complete, it was clear because of the type of cancer I have — triple negative, invasive and highly aggressive — that chemotherapy would be the first course of treatment. Again, I didn't fret because I had complete faith and trust in my medical team, especially my medical oncologist. My chemo cycle lasted twelve weeks, four treatments every three weeks. After the first week of treatment, I began to lose my hair. I took the opportunity to shave my head at that moment and embrace the freedom that decision brought after years of stressing over every strand. It felt so empowering! I had a few moments of feeling awful over the twelve weeks of chemo treatment but I never let it hold me back from going to my full-time job or teaching classes or running my fitness studio. I think a positive attitude (and possibly a dose of denial) got me very far throughout this process.
Once the chemotherapy was completed, I immediately began eight weeks of daily radiation treatments. The therapy made me a little tired, but the further away I got from chemo the better I began to feel. I celebrated the end of treatment in September 2012 by hosting a Party In Pink™ Zumbathon® charity event and the response was overwhelming! We had 200 people in attendance and raised more than $6,000 for Susan G. Komen®. Everyone involved in the event was so thrilled about the positive outcome that we knew it would become an annual project! Last year's Party in Pink raised more than $5,000 for the Zumba® Global Research Grant for Breast Cancer Prevention. This year, our focus is a local hospital cancer center's integrative medicine program.
If I can sum up what gives me strength, I would immediately say my family — my husband, children, sister, parents. I am blessed to have wonderful friends who make me laugh and keep me sane. I work in my oncologist's office now and seeing the patients every day, talking to them and interacting with them in their time of need has been a great source of positivity and inspiration for me. Teaching Zumba classes is a great source of joy, freedom and release; and the participants who attend our classes have become extended family to me and all of the staff, who are incredible themselves! I am very blessed to be surrounded by positive and upbeat people who help me stay focused and driven every day. I try to keep it moving in a forward and positive direction and that keeps the good vibes flowing!