Last month, we hosted our third annual Survivor Soirée in Nashville, TN. This was a special opportunity to recognize people who are making an impact in the Survivor Fitness community and also raise support for cancer survivors to continue their journey of healing through our mission. One of our favorite highlights from the event is getting to honor a Survivor Fitness participant who embodies the values of our community.
This year’s honoree was Maheen. Here’s a brief look at her story and why we were honored to recognize her at this year’s event.
An Unexpected, Life-Altering Diagnosis
Maheen is a driven and compassionate woman who was just about to start her career in medicine when she received news that would change her life. After finishing her post-doctoral residency training program, Maheen was ready to start her career when she recognized a lump along her chest wall one morning. She immediately knew something was wrong.
“I remember sitting on my bedroom floor and crying as we received the phone call,” Maheen said. “It was like everything went black at that moment, and I didn’t understand what I was being told.”
Maheen was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, one of the rarest and most aggressive forms of breast cancer. This required a comprehensive and difficult approach to treatment.
“I was very scared and nervous. Some studies show that only 35-40% of people with this diagnosis get a good response from treatment. I didn’t know what was going to happen or where I would go,” she explained.
Maheen’s cancer journey included numerous ups, downs, and unexpected turns. A few weeks after her double mastectomy, Maheen learned that she had a pulmonary embolism. A couple of months after starting treatment for that, doctors found a large mass in her heart This led to unexpected open-heart surgery.
“I just remember there being a lot of hopeless days and nights, not knowing what was next,” she recalled.
“Regaining Control and Feeling Like Myself Again”
After completing treatment, Maheen immediately noticed a change in her body. Because of chemotherapy, corticosteroids, and multiple surgeries, Maheen lost a significant amount of physical strength.
“I wasn’t able to work or even do simple day-to-day tasks that were easy before my diagnosis. I didn’t feel like myself after treatment,” she said.
That’s when she learned about Survivor Fitness from Julie Bulger, who works at the Patient and Family Care Center at Vanderbilt’s Ingram Cancer Center.
“Cancer had taken a lot away from me, and I recognized that Survivor Fitness was one way I could do something for myself. I finally had a way to take back control where I could,” she said.
Maheen was connected with her Survivor Fitness trainer J.J. Fish, and the two began working together on a personalized plan that would help Maheen regain her strength and vitality. While losing the weight she gained during treatment was an area of focus, Maheen recognized that it was ultimately a byproduct of getting strong and healthy.
“I’m just extremely thankful to be able to work with a trainer like J.J.,” she said. “I’ve been able to lose over 45 pounds. But more than that — I’ve regained my confidence, improved my sleep, and I feel like myself again, mentally and physically.”
Maheen’s commitment to recovering her vitality and strength is inspiring to our community at Survivor Fitness. At one point in her recovery, Maheen had to stop training to recover after another surgery. She maintained a commitment to getting back to training as quickly as she could.
“Survivor Fitness has given me so many things I never imagined I’d be able to regain,” she said. ”I feel so much stronger mentally and physically. I feel like I’ve been able to regain control over my life.”
Join the Survivor Fitness Community
If you or someone you know is a cancer survivor looking to regain your health and wellness through one-on-one personal training and nutritional support, connect with us today to learn more.