Halfway through the 3rd annual In-Shape Fights Cancer campaign, we are well on our way to raising much needed money for cancer research. #InShapeFightsCancer for our friends and family, our members and our colleagues – colleagues like Mandy Oliver-Lopez from the Support Center.

 

In February, Mandy Oliver-Lopez began a journey that has changed her life forever. After receiving abnormal results on some blood work, she had a mammogram which led to a biopsy and subsequent surgery.

 

 

She was diagnosed with stage 2B invasive ductal breast cancer. Because it had spread to her lymph nodes, there was increased risk that it would spread to other areas.  She had to decide if a lumpectomy was enough or if she should remove both of her breasts. She decided to undergo a double mastectomy with lymph node dissection where they ended up removing 30 lymph nodes.

 

Mandy then started extensive treatment where she would sit for 5-6 hours at a time while the life-saving drugs would flow in to her body. The day after each treatment, she receives a shot that boosts her immune system. 

 

Mandy shared the realities of the side effects, “It feels like my bones are about to explode. Or like you’ve done the hardest workout. There’s arthritis, muscle ache, extreme fatigue, nausea, hair loss. In fact, my hair fell out 10 days after the first treatment.”

 

“The lotus flower symbolizes that out of the deepest, darkest waters, something beautiful can bloom. And the koi fish swims upstream and turns into a dragon to signify triumph at the end of the journey. I want that to be me,”She shaved her head and tattooed it with something that symbolized her journey – a lotus flower and a koi fish that transforms into a dragon.

 

“The lotus flower symbolizes that out of the deepest, darkest waters, something beautiful can bloom. And the koi fish swims upstream and turns into a dragon to signify triumph at the end of the journey. I want that to be me,” she said.

 

Her family (wife, 4 children, 2 grandchildren) and her community give her the strength to fight. She’s learned she can’t do it alone and support from others is a huge part of living with cancer – a simple smile, kind word, or a hug from a stranger has the incredible power to lift you up.  One such community is her UJAM crew at In-Shape.  A coworker encouraged her to try UJAM as a way to stay fit, get a good cardio work out in and have fun.

 

She didn’t realize the social support she would receive, “It’s more than just a workout. There is no judgement. It’s about socializing and feeling good. I don’t care if it is your first class or your 50th , you’ll get the same attention from the instructors. You need to get healthy and fit, so why not have fun while you’re doing it,” she said of UJAM.

Images of Many with friends and family

Mandy encourages other people facing this challenge to be strong. She added, “Ask lots of questions, do lots of research and understand your options and risks. The most important thing you can do is be your own advocate of your treatment plan.”

 

With two treatments to go, some days are better than others. But Mandy remains positive and keeps moving forward.

 

“Life goes on. The world is not going to stand still. Life continues to happen – with or without me. As a result of this journey, I value life more and I’m more passionate about helping others. I’m always volunteering and looking for ways to encourage others to keep going and share their stories,” she said.

 

“I choose to live without fear or regret,” she concluded.

 

We are inspired by you, Mandy, and we fight for you!