“I was 31 years of age when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My instant thought was “Why me? How is this possible?” I didn’t feel sick, I didn’t look sick, if anything I was the fittest I had ever been in my life, I had just gone back to work part time as my 1st child was turning 1 in 3 days time and I remember not wanting to believe…not wanting to accept my diagnosis.

But the reality was that, I was a 31yr old woman with breast cancer, who was facing an instant mastectomy and potentially a long treatment program of chemotherapy and radiation. My lump was no pea or cherry as in all of the pamphlets, it was a mass so big that it measured over 6 cm on diagnosis, and because I had been breast feeding during that time all the doctors and scans said it was mastitis – not cancer, so I was shocked when I finally found out after 3 months of scans and doctors appointments that I had cancer.

I remember being in a daze for what felt like a lifetime, going along to all of the appointments, frantically researching cancer, trying to be a mum to my now 1 year old and trying to hold it together because everyone in my family said you need to be positive.

I had known Jarrat for many years. We had played touch football together and he and my husband Chris were and are very good friends. I was lucky enough to start training with Jarrat when my daughter Mia was 6 weeks old, I had an emergency caesarean section with her and I remember I could not do a sit up!! It was like my body and mind weren’t connected and this is where Jarrat and my fitness journey began. We trained my post-pregnancy body into what I thought was a fighting machine -until that diagnosis.  I remember thinking “I am now sick – what do I do?”. I had to have a mastectomy 6 days after diagnosis, I was lucky enough to keep my lymph nodes and upon the results given to me a week later I was told that my 11cm cancer was mainly in the breast tissue so there was no need for chemotherapy but I needed to have radiation 3 months later.

I went to see my breast surgeon to see if I could exercise again and he told me to take it easy. I would know when to stop because it would hurt but it was good for me to increase my range of motion, build strength and overall get some life back into my step!!

My surgeon had given Jarrat some information on my surgery and with my input Jarrat put together a plan to help me recover, build strength, increase my range of motion, and ultimately helped me to see the positive side of life again. I am a driven individual most of the time, but everyone has dark days when you don’t feel up to it, you’re in pain, you feel sick etc. Jarrat would support me and modify our sessions to accommodate me. I always felt positive when I left our sessions, I knew that I was working for my body and mind to be in a better place. I even trained with him during my radiation treatment and together he helped me rebuild my mind and body. There were times when I felt for him as I would sometimes lash out, cry, swear, get angry but it was my coping mechanisms and he never made me feel stupid or uncomfortable.

Jarrat helped me put a plan together to get me back on track, both physically and mentally and to this day I am 5 yrs post diagnosis, a mother of two healthy girls and won’t ever let cancer get the better of me again. Jarrat thank you..”

Many people are unsure of whether exercise is suitable during cancer treatment. As there are many different forms of cancer and cancer treatment each case needs to be treated individually depending on the type of cancer, treatment plan, prognosis, fatigue and previous exercise experience and fitness levels. As a general guide if you feel capable of exercise there is good evidence that exercise can help with your prognosis, fatigue levels, aerobic fitness, strength and prevention of future cancers. If you would like more advice regarding exercise options email: jarrat@personaltrainingprograms.com.au. If you would like more information regarding cancer I recommend visiting: www.cancer.org.au and www.livestrong.com. There is an abundance of information, education and latest research available.

Thank you to Monica* for sharing your story, for the trust you placed in me and for your ongoing friendship.

*Name changed for privacy