Breast cancer has impacted many in our community and, as a result, we share a genuine desire with Susan G. Komen: to help prevent and find a cure for breast cancer. Together we have launched a new product line with a portion of every sale going to Susan G. Komen. When casting for the product photoshoot, we wanted to feature someone who understood the trials of breast cancer and the joy of fitness. We are proud to introduce our model, Jennifer, who is an Echelon member and 17-year breast cancer survivor.
During our photo and video shoot, we had the opportunity to chat with Jennifer about her experience with cancer and how fitness helped her through her treatment and recovery. This is her story.
An Unexpected Diagnosis
In December 2003, Jennifer found herself facing a battle that she never saw coming: breast cancer. With no family history and at only 38 years old, cancer wasn’t on the young mom’s radar. Nonetheless, she found herself speechless as her doctor urgently scheduled an appointment with a breast care specialist.
Today, Jennifer is a Leaderboard leader, wife of 31 years to her husband Kirby, and a mother to two grown daughters. She proudly shares the joys of her life now because this is the future she thought she might never see.
She explains, “When I was first diagnosed and thinking about my future, I had that short moment — just like everybody else, you know — a cancer diagnosis is a death sentence and that's what I thought. And then [eventually] I actually started thinking about it, I realized that I just had to take it one day, one step at a time.” For Jennifer, it was about truly living while she fought to survive: “‘Enjoy the moments. Be present.’ And that's what I decided I wanted my future to be...the day that we have is the day that we need to enjoy and to be present.”
A Decision to Keep Moving
Despite her desire to stay positive, Jennifer realized that much of her life was now out of her hands, “cancer is definitely something that is not in your control. I wanted to be able to be there for my husband. I wanted to be there for my girls and our future.” Jennifer knew that if she researched too much about breast cancer, she could get lost in her fears. Instead, she read all that she could about how to fight cancer, including lifestyle changes to accompany her double mastectomy and chemotherapy. After discovering that there were actions she could take to improve her prognosis, she stated, “I grasped onto what I could control: what I ate, what I did to exercise, and what I did to rest.”
She believes that exercise, in particular, helped her physically, emotionally, and spiritually. There were days that she didn’t want to exercise but even doing something helped: “Just moving... that really helped me through my process to be able to feel as good as I could feel.”
A Life of Fitness + Wellness
Breast cancer treatment is exhausting on the best of days. By the end, Jennifer was relieved but tired in every way. After being officially declared “in remission,” she had the choice in front of her: do I continue this active lifestyle? For Jennifer, it was an obvious choice. She states that she “gets charged” from working out, especially cycling and HIIT and that it continues to help her physically and mentally.
The lifestyle Jennifer discovered during her cancer treatment was about more than exercise. Fitness is one aspect but there is also wellness. “Fitness,” she believes, “means continuing to be active and moving.” This is a complement to wellness — a true way of living that involves a choice to be well. In her own life, this meant choosing nutritious food and to do things that made her feel good. One such behavior was the choice to not wear a wig. She celebrated her baldness instead of wearing the wig that her daughter said made her look sick.
As she continued to heal, Jennifer also reveled in the small victories that many of us take for granted. During treatment, sometimes her workouts would barely last five minutes so when she completed her first 20-minute class it was a huge victory. That was a “big ah-ha” moment where she realized her gaining strength.
A Step Towards Prevention + Survival
While not every case of breast cancer is preventable, Jennifer’s belief about choosing fitness and wellness is not just anecdotal. Susan G. Komen has gathered research that extolls the benefits of physical activity relative to breast cancer prevention and survival.
According to their website, women who are moderately active for 30+ min. a day have a 3% lower risk of breast cancer than women who are not active. Additionally, breast cancer survivors who were moderately active for 3+ hrs a week had a 30% lower overall mortality compared to less active survivors.
In 2021 there will be an estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women and 2,650 estimated cases in men. For those who will face this diagnosis, early detection can help increase survival rates. Jennifer was diagnosed with stage one in her right breast and stage two in her left. She noticed a lump and brought her concern to her doctor.
An Inspirational Photoshoot
Throughout our day of shooting content for the new Susan G. Komen product line, there was a lot of conversation around cancer but there were also a lot of laughs and fun stories. Jennifer’s daughter joined us behind the scenes and shared a genuine pride in her mom.
The eldest of Jennifer’s two girls, Sydnee is a spitting image of her mom in more than just appearance. After watching her mom promote physical activity throughout her life, and especially during her cancer treatment, Sydnee was inspired to pursue a similar lifestyle. She is a lifelong athlete, including playing lacrosse at university, and now joins her mom on the Echelon Leaderboard.
“It is so cool to see my mom get to celebrate her survival by promoting exercise,” Sydnee exclaimed. “She is such a rockstar and I hope that others can be inspired to take action in their own lives.”
You can join Jennifer and Sydnee on the Leaderboard with the Echelon Premier Membership and show your support for breast cancer research and awareness with our new Susan G. Komen x Echelon product line.