by BIG LEZ
Breast Cancer Survivor: Pia James
Getting back into a workout routine after major surgery is a decision to be made by you and your healthcare physician. Once you agree upon a suitable practice, remember to take it slow. You can rebuild your muscles, but you have to meet yourself where you are in the present moment.
Photography & Makeup Vivien Sainz
Pia James is a breast cancer survivor. She has graciously agreed to show us some post treatment exercises that have helped her get back into shape and back into a life she loves. Here is Pia’s story:
The first time I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer was in December of 1999. I had just relocated from NYC in September and Aysia was only about 3 years old. So here I am in LA with a new job, new home, no family and now cancer.
When I met with my original oncologist I still wasn’t prepared to hear that I needed a double mastectomy. What??!!!…I was only 32…divorced…what would this mean for my dating life. Yes, that was one of the first thoughts I had. Everyone recommended I get a second opinion and I got two. Both doctors decided a lumpectomy would be a better choice for me, but I would have to undergo an aggressive round of treatment…eight chemo sessions and seven weeks of daily radiation. They would save my breasts but unfortunately, I would lose my hair.
I remember my first chemotherapy session like it was yesterday. Everyone warned me about the nausea and vomiting, but I came out wondering what the big deal was. I called up a friend and we went and had Thai; my favorite was spicy eggplant. I say “was” because the next day I experienced what the big deal was. I have never touched that dish since.
I would have to say that chemo was the toughest aspect of treatment for me to deal with…the nausea, the hair loss, the constant metallic taste that spoiled everything I could manage to eat and keep down. I avoided mirrors, glass, and anything with a reflection because I just couldn’t take seeing myself.
Eventually it was all over. I was cancer free and I started to regain my confidence and my joy of living. No more constant doctor’s visits, my hair was growing back, I had energy. I felt I had my life back!
Exactly two months after celebrating, I found another lump. I was devastated. This time I knew exactly what I had to look forward to, so I rebelled. Against his wishes, I told my doctor I was NOT doing chemo. I just couldn’t do it. I had just moved back to LA. After a brief reconciliation and eventual breakup with Aysia’s dad, I had left New York and was starting over…again. It’s sad when I think about it now, but I was more afraid of suffering from my treatments than of dying…crazy!!!
I had another lumpectomy and did radiation only and for about three years everything was good. Then, in October of 2009 my job sent me to New York for two months and I got this weird rash; it was in the same area as my lumpectomies. I didn’t even have to go to a doctor to know. It was back and with a vengeance. This time I was prepared. I knew what had to be done and I was determined to not let Cancer define me or control my life! I won’t say it wasn’t difficult and I won’t say there weren’t tears, but this time I was on attack mode. I greeted chemo with a what’s up…let’s go…I got this.
I bought my wig ahead of time and thankfully, my eyelashes and eyebrows only thinned out this time. I did light workouts throughout my treatments and completely changed my diet. I read and researched constantly. I knew that after all my treatments were over I was going to have to face the inevitable…double mastectomy. I was going to be armed and ready with knowledge and a plan. Once I discovered all
the surgical advances, I was actually looking forward to getting my new “boobs” and not to mention the tummy tuck that came with it. You’ll take all the fat from my belly and give me new breasts…say what??? Where do I sign up?
I hope and pray that this is my last breast cancer experience. I had phase one of my reconstruction in April and in about six months my plastic surgeon will apply the finishing touches and I’ll be good as new. I’m so thankful for every single day and I can truly say that I never take one for granted! I just know I’m still here because God has something (S)he intends for me to do. I haven’t figured out what it is yet, but I will. For now, I just take each day as it comes and I try not to waste a minute of the life I’ve been given.
There’s a saying I love, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” and truer words have never been said.