I’m Terri Reiff, the Managing Partner at Powerhouse Gym and a breast cancer survivor. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to share my story, which began 20 years ago when I discovered a lump during a self-exam. This was just three months after a routine mammogram. My results were perfectly normal, I didn’t think any more of it. My mother-in-law and several friends had battled breast cancer in the past, so I made a point of giving myself self-exams every month in the shower.
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My Life Changed in an Instant.
I immediately called my called husband, and we scheduled an appointment with my doctor. I gathered all my medical paperwork and dropped it off at the office. They performed an ultrasound and told me to go to lunch while they waited for results. When I returned, the doctor told me I was stage 2, and the cancer had probably already traveled to my lymph nodes. She gave me an 80% chance of surviving another five years and recommended immediate surgery. I’ll never forget sitting in Atlanta traffic with my husband on a Friday afternoon, just devastated. He had to pick me up off the floor of the doctor’s office and get me in the car to leave.
“…no matter the reason for exercising, keep it up.”
We got on the phone with a friend of ours who was a critical care doctor while we were in the car. He insisted on getting us a second opinion. The following Monday, the second doctor told me that he believed I was misdiagnosed. He said there was no proof that the cancer had traveled to my lymph nodes and suggested that it was only stage 1 but still recommended surgery. By Friday I was in surgery. They performed a full mastectomy and a TRAM flap reconstructive surgery. I had decided on the TRAM because I wanted to remain as natural as possible with the reconstruction. Six weeks following the surgery I started radiation, and 8 months later I started chemotherapy. I went through 12 weekly rounds of chemo.
During this time I had 3 gyms in the Atlanta area and sold all of them. But even without my gyms, I still firmly believed in exercise and the profound effect is has on the body, mind, and spirit. It helped me through this tough time and during my recovery. I was able to start walking within 8 weeks after my surgery and started light weight training again after 12 weeks. Just before I started chemo, I was running 2-3 miles a day. From diagnosis to the end of my chemotherapy, the entirety of what I endured was about a year. Exercise was the one thing that kept me going. It improved my mood during my ordeal and helped to keep my body strong. I make it a point to tell everyone, no matter the reason for exercising, keep it up. It changes you and makes you the best version of you.