Q: How did you feel when you initially received the news?
I.E.W.: I heard it during my doctor’s visit after biopsy. I felt kind of lost and confused. I was young. I did not smoke. I ate well. I had two kids that I breastfed. I exercised. This was not supposed to happen to me.
Q: Did you have a good support network as you were fighting through it?
I.E.W.: Not at the beginning. I was busy dealing with surgery followed by chemotherapy. Saint Joseph Hospital had a lot of workshops and help groups. I did not attend during my second cancer episode. I had support since I got to know a lot of people in the cancer circuit. I got involved with American Cancer Society and became their high roller fundraiser. I still do fundraising for cancer patients using Zumba®.
Q: Did you use any services or programs to help you through the treatment process?
I.E.W.: I got referrals for wigs from organizations. I got an expensive wig. My chocolate lab was very fond of it and I could not rescue it from her. I ended up using baseball caps with scarfs.
Q: What was your biggest obstacle while undergoing treatment?
I.E.W.: I had complications with surgery. I did not take time off from my full time work. Juggling hospital and doctors’ visits with work was very challenging.
Q: What would you like others to know about breast cancer, who may not know much about this disease?
I.E.W.: Do self-exams. Be your own advocate. Do not take everything your doctor tells you for granted. Understand your treatment and the medications you are taking along with their side effects, complications and their aftermath. Read and read and talk to other patients. Eat well and be knowledgeable about exercise and nutrition. And relax. Breast cancer is treatable and is not a life sentence. Do not freak out. My doctor advised me to do lumpectomy followed by radiation second time around. I opted for radical mastectomy instead.
Q: As a group fitness instructor for LA Fitness, did you find it hard keeping active during treatment?
I.E.W.: I was active during treatment. You do not have energy but you can manage. Reduce your load but do not stop exercising and/or teaching fitness.
Q: What advice would you give to women, and men, battling breast cancer?
I.E.W.: Surround yourself with positive energy. Cut out relationships that are toxic. Do not fall into “poor me” mode.
Q: What advice would you give friends and family of those battling through this disease?
I.E.W.: Ask for help and accept it. Let people help you out.