For the past four years, the Survivor Fitness Foundation has hosted The Survivor Soirée to honor participants and raise money to support cancer survivors who are unable to afford the help they need to regain their health and quality of life. Inevitably, one of the most memorable and moving moments is when we get to recognize our annual Survivor Fitness Honorees. This year, we had the opportunity to celebrate Brooke Hartman as one of our Knoxville-area honorees.
Here is a powerful glimpse into Brooke’s battle with cancer and her journey toward health.
“I Had No Idea How Our World Would Be Turned Upside Down…”
Brooke was diagnosed in April 2020 with a form of breast cancer known as invasive ductile carcinoma. Reflecting on her experience, Brooke will never forget the day the surgeon also informed her that the diagnosis was triple negative. Not only is it one of the worst types of tumors, but it also is a more aggressive form of cancer that does not have a targeted treatment plan.
But navigating treatment was only part of the challenge that made cancer difficult. Brooke is also a wife and mother.
“I realized the lump I discovered was not a good thing, but I had no idea how our world was going to be turned upside down,” Brooke explained. “There isn’t a specific way to target the triple negative form of cancer, so you kind of have to throw the kitchen sink at it.”
Brooke immediately began an aggressive treatment plan that included IV chemotherapy infusions, a double mastectomy, 30 radiation treatments, 12 months of immunotherapy, and six months of chemotherapy medication.
Cancer, along with the treatment, took a tremendous toll on her body. Six months into treatment, Brooke began trying simple exercises to get back to normal. That’s when a sobering reality set in.
“I remember trying to do a push-up, and I realized I couldn’t do it,” Brooke said. “It was like everything came crashing down at that moment, and I realized what cancer treatment had done. I can’t explain the hope I got when I learned that I could be part of a program that could help me rebuild.”
“Treatment is Over… But Cancer is Not.”
After her long, difficult treatment regimen was completed, Brooke began adjusting to life after treatment, which can be an extremely difficult experience for cancer survivors.
“There’s a reality that when treatment is over… cancer is not,” Brooke said. “Treatment is complete, but it’s sort of like hearing, ‘Congratulations! That part is over. Here’s what you have left.’”
In July of 2021, Brooke joined Survivor Fitness and began working with Survivor Fitness trainer Carissa Mahoney. Together, they developed an intentional training plan based on the treatment Brooke received and the health goals she wanted to achieve.
Four months later, Brooke achieved something she never thought possible after treatment: hiking to the top of Mount LeConte. While the hike was difficult, Brooke was able to ground herself in the reality of where she was and how far she’d come.
“At one point on the hike…I just stood there and cried,“ Brooke said. “I never knew if I was ever going to be able to do something like this. I got to summit LeConte, and I will always be grateful for that, but I got so much more.”
Brooke attributes her ability to achieve something like hiking Mt. LeConte to the physical, mental, and emotional she receives through Survivor Fitness. The training and encouragement have made a tremendous impact on her ability to engage with life in ways she couldn’t envision after treatment.
“I cannot imagine post-treatment without Survivor Fitness,” Brooke stated. “I believe that folks need to know that cancer isn’t the end of the story. The story continues. We get to live that out.”
Join the Survivor Fitness Community
Brooke’s passion for life and her family inspire us all in the Survivor Fitness community. It’s such an honor to walk with her during this phase of her journey. If Brooke’s story resonates with you, you can also check out the experience of other Survivor Fitness participants here on our blog.
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 about becoming a Survivor Fitness Participant. You can also donate to the Survivor Fitness Foundation to provide scholarships to those in need of support.