A Boxer's Story: Life After Breast Cancer
I fight like a girl. I have a tattoo on the back of my neck, a pair of pink boxing gloves held together by the breast cancer ribbon and on the ribbon this phrase is written: I Fight Like a Girl. I adopted this phrase when my son gave me a bracelet that he and his father picked out for me from the hospital gift shop. The bracelet has pink boxing gloves all around it and that phrase written on it with the breast cancer awareness symbol. Two things that are near and dear to my heart, boxing and Breast Cancer Awareness. Pink is not favorite color, olive green is but you would never know that now because just about everything I own now is pink or has pink in it. To me pink is not just a color anymore.
I found the lump when I was bathing; it wasn’t there two months before when I performed the last self-examination. I was diagnosed with breast cancer just a couple of weeks later, I had just turned 33. I had a choice to make, I could get depressed, angry and sad and give up or I could face it and fight with all the strength I had. I chose to fight, to fight for my children who were 3 and 8 at the time; I decided to fight like a girl!
I set my mind to do whatever I could do to ensure that I would live to see my children graduate from high school, college, walk down the aisle and one day to see my grandchildren. I wanted to set an example for my kids that no matter how difficult the fight may be, God has equipped us with everything we need to persevere and loved ones to draw strength from when we can’t find anymore within ourselves.
Right before I was diagnosed, I had decided to finally pursue a dream I had since I was a young girl. To obtain a black belt in mixed martial arts. I started with boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) and I was just starting to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when my training was interrupted. But just as I suspected I fell in love with Muay Thai. As I little girl I used to watch boxing and dreamed of getting in the ring too. That’s when I realized that I was indeed fighting the fight of my life, for my life!
One of the first things I did was to go online to look for “fighting” apparel that also incorporated breast cancer awareness; I didn’t find anything at the time. Then one day I received an email from Title MMA featuring the Knock Out line. I was so excited that I ordered all the Knock Out shirts I could find, in every color and style they had, even different size because I wasn’t sure of what the finished product would be!
I underwent a double mastectomy followed by 3 surgeries for reconstruction. That year was the most difficult year of my life, I had to find strength to keep going every day. The physical pain was greater than natural childbirth, but the emotional pain is unmatched. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional scars left behind by cancer. Sometime after my last reconstructive surgery my daughter brought me a balloon to blow up for her, I nearly cried when I realized that I couldn’t do it. After seeing my body so weakened by the cancer, I thought I was never going to be able to live a normal life again let alone do any kind of physical activity. I decided it was time to do anything that I could do so that I may return to train as quickly as possible. I started walking and running I could only run for a minute or two. But I was determined to get back in the gym.
Two years ago my boyfriend took me to his Muay Thai gym and introduced me to his long time teacher, Saekson Janjira, 6 time undefeated world champion. I walked in expecting to take a trial class and afterwards decide if this is something I wanted to sign up to do. When I walked in Saekson said to me, do you want to pay x amount or xx amount, and I answered, well of course I would rather pay less and he said; Ok, you cannot cancel for a year and he walked out. I signed a one year contract before I had ever taken a single class from him, I thought to myself, well I am going to pay for this for the next year, I may as well take it seriously. Muay Thai has helped me to regain physical strength but also to regain the confidence in myself that I had before. If I didn’t have such a positive environment to go to everyday at the gym, I don’t know where my state of mind would be in right now. The doctors can help heal your physical being, but the emotional healing is all up to you.
Almost three years later, I am cancer free and I have a yellow-white armband in Muay Thai under Saekson Janjira, by the way, I never told my teacher that I had cancer, I am not ashamed by any means, but I didn’t want to set any limitations on myself from the get go. I will someday achieve a black belt in mixed martial arts and I will continue to Fight Like a Girl!
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