In part two of our October breast cancer awareness feature, Katy Family YMCA group exercise instructor Nancy McCollom Gonzales shares how her breast cancer was discovered, and tells us what her doctor says has been key to her recovery.
I randomly felt a lump one day. I tried a self exam a few years ago, but everything felt lumpy to me. I never did one since. This past February I randomly felt a lump either while scratching myself, adjusting a bra, brushing against myself… I can’t even remember. This lump was different; it was noticeable to the touch. My best explanation is the difference between normal breast tissue is like a soft squishy pea, this is more like a semi-frozen pea.
I hemmed and hawed over it for three weeks then figured it was time for an annual mammogram anyway. The mammogram did not pick it up; however, because I checked “yes” on the form that says “Have you found any lumps since your last visit,” they called me in for an ultra sound. Biopsy. Then diagnosis.
My oncologist believes that my fitness routine before and after surgery is a big key to my successful results. I’ve also tried to follow the “rules” and diet as best as possible to avoid any unnecessary side effects. I returned to the Katy YMCA ten days after surgery for cycle and RPM classes. I wasn’t allowed to have any pressure up top, so I sat in the saddle and just pedaled away at my own speed. No leaning on the bars, nothing. I couldn’t even adjust my own seat due to the strain of pulling the pin, so others graciously assisted. As I felt stronger, I took a few other classes including my own step class, yet used no risers and kept my arms to my side or hands at my waist to avoid any arm movement or stretching.
I owe my success to God, family, friends and doctors. Exercise, health and attitude is/was what I could control myself during this whole adventure. I had a choice; be depressed and feel worse, or grab my situation by the horns and ride it hard!
There have been some tough times and tears as expected: each time I saw myself with bruises from biopsies; the first time I used the word “mastectomy” in my own conversation while referring to myself; the first time I saw a pink ribbon and thought “darn this stands for me;”the first time I saw myself without the bandages; the first time I saw a sink full of hair; the first time I saw myself bald… I get teary now just thinking of all the women who experience what I’ve experienced and worse. Knowing that I’ve been so lucky and being thankful for the support system I have has helped me through it.
Working out/teaching while going through chemotherapy has also been a bit of a ride. The week after treatments are the hardest. I will not let this get the best of me.
Our deepest gratitude to Nancy for her willingness to share her story so openly. Visit the YMCA of Greater Houston website to learn how you can Workout for Pink or simply learn more about breast cancer.