When we received Lois Hammond’s KickAss Woman of the Month submission, we were blown away. Many of the women we featured have achieved big success in the fitness world. Lois achieved something more inspirational. She kicked cancer’s ass. We hope you will be just as inspired by Lois’ story as we are! – kaw
Tell us about your fight with cancer?
My incredible life’s journey back from the dead began in the year 2005/2006. I was a massage therapist/aerobics instructor and just had my own aerobics video produced and thriving in the business world. Life was good.
Then in the summer of 2005 had to have a root canal, no big deal really I thought. Had it done, but it never really felt right, then I began to feel so tired and my face swelled and then my neck swelled, I seriously looked like the elephant woman. I began taking rounds of antibiotics and it finally went down and the root canal was redone and a piece of a file was found in my jaw line. YIKES! What a scary thought. But hey they took it out and it was all good. So I thought, but that was just the beginning of the nightmare I thought I could not wake up from. After a few months had passed by and in December I had a small lump appear on my left side of my neck conveniently located right below the root canaled tooth, no big deal the doctor said just have a massage on it and it will go down, hmmm… well that did not work, so I went to another doctor and she gave me antibiotics because she said it was an infection, well it went down somewhat but the lump was still there and the tiredness was awful. I would be working and in between my clients, I myself would be laying on the massage table to get 15 minutes of rest before the next person would show up. I would drink lots of coffee and as many energy drinks I could throughout the day just to keep moving. Everything began to be hard for me, I would have to stop and rest and I was having a tough time breathing and I could barely walk to my car without being out of breath. What the heck I thought, I am weighing about 115 pounds in tip top shape (so I thought) but I cannot breath. Well I finally decided after this had went on for about 4 weeks and getting worse and the lump got bigger. I went yet to another doctor. He took one look at me and he said you need a specialist, I thought are you kidding me , for what and he said, I believe you are looking at Lymphoma. I just looked at him like what???? Are you serious? This cannot be!!! I was saying and thinking it all at the same time, I am HEALTHY!! I went to another specialist within the next day and was scheduled for surgery to biopsy the lump, and the doctor told my family it was not good. So the next day, I went back to the doctor and he sent me to the oncologist to discuss the outcome. So I went to the oncologist who was not compassionate nor kind, a bit like the Tinman so I thought… kind of heartless/cold, but I know that is the way they must be with this kind of news, who explained in this way, he said you have Stage 3 Lymphoma, the tumor is running from your neck wrapped around both of your lungs and the bottom part of your heart and my suggestion is you need treatment NOW, but you don’t have 2 days to even think about this. It has to be now, of in-treatment in the hospital for a week and get hit with many rounds of chemotherapy or as much as your body will tolerate and then it might make this tumor stop, or be able to get a handle on it. Well I just looked at this man and I said, nope if I have no time then I will just go home and think about what I want to do. Did I mention I am a bit stubborn?? Well I did go home and I thought, well I guess that explains the breathing problem. Hmm. Shock is what it was. My head was spinning and I could not wrap my brain around this. But believe it or not, I had many avenues to think about: holistic treatments or go to another facility or nothing. Well, it was a month of searching and looking for what to do. I stopped all massages and closed my massage career down. I finally ended up going to University of Michigan and they first did a bone marrow test on me where they drilled, and yes I said drilled into my iliac crest/waist bones in the back to see what was going on there. Thank Goodness there was nothing in the bone marrow test. Then they decided on 4 treatments of chemotherapy and they began the chemotherapy treatments. I had my first one on March of 2006 and yes indeed, my body got weird it rejected the first treatment. I had a convulsion which was I guess close to a code blue, at least that is what I remember the nurses yelling as I was shaking uncontrollably on the bed, but they got the convulsing under control then I had the treatment the next day and my body was accepting the lovely round of drugs, 6 hours worth of sitting with an IV in my arm. Little do you know what that chemotherapy is going to do to you. Oh yes indeed, I lost my hair every single bit of it on my body within 3 weeks and then the amount of steroids you are taking is unreal, not only do you swell and bloat from the chemo and the steroids, Lymphoma itself swells your limbs and the tiredness is so intense. All you want to do is sleep, but you cannot sleep because your body is aching and you feel so sick and weak it is unreal. Your body begins to feel like it can hardly move without a pain or ache and the heaviness is like lifting bricks in your legs. The depression began there shortly after where you look in the mirror and you no longer recognize yourself and you feel so sick and on top of all of this, you have no immune system so no one can be around you and you cannot go anywhere but to the hospital in fear of catching something. I missed every event that whole summer and year. Then I got done with the four treatments, and then a problem was developed in my heart. The fluid had built underneath it, in which it was causing me to have trouble breathing again so the doctor felt that I needed to have an echo gram, another CT scan and then came along a PET scan. Scary test where you are toxic to the point where the technician wear a white suit completely covering suit for their protection from your toxic body to put the IV in your arm. So I had to go to a heart specialist now too, my life as I once knew it was now a blur of doctors and hospitals and every kind of scan out there and the oncologist continued to say 2 more treatments. Finally after 8 rounds of chemotherapy, bags of steroids along with the steroids to take at home. I was like no more, and the doctor said well no more chemotherapy, you are done. But now we want you to have 20 treatments of radiation. I had about 3 weeks after all the chemotherapy and 2 more CT scans and on to the radiation. I was about 60 pounds heavier at that time weighing about 170 pounds and my body was so bloated and out of shape, but my skin was taught and tight like a pin could pop it… can we say moon face and body. The radiation made it so I lost about 18 pounds very quickly. Now at 152 pounds and not healthy because I was starving from my throat burning like fire and food tasted most disgusting. I was weak and even feeling more sick, working out and being active was a thing of the past. As for strength and energy, I had absolutely none, getting up and walking to the bathroom and back to the couch was exhausting. Life was so different and a nightmare, I felt like death and look like a person no one would even know anymore, not even myself. I would look into the mirror and just cry and sob. I was at the most weakened fragile state ever. So after all the torment, tiredness, treatments and scans, I wanted to just be NORMAL again, but… you actually wonder what is normal.
So I got stubborn and started on my upward route to becoming healthy and rebuilding myself. And remembering what my Mom would always say “YOU must never quit and never ever give up. Just hang on and be strong.”
Where did you get your strength?
I had a huge support from my family and from my Mom who was one of my biggest cheerleaders. She cheered me all the way through my cancer and treatments, but as my battle ended and trying to get somewhat normal again, my mom became ill with a malignant tumor in her hip which had gone into the bones and after being with her everyday for three months, she lost her battle and passed away. ONCE again my WORLD was shaken to the absolute core, I thought at this point I would NEVER get back up or even through it. But she was the strongest/bravest most inspiring woman I have ever known and she would NOT let me quit. She wanted me to tell my story of the struggle. The struggle which for over 4 years of physically and emotionally grieving/tormenting both mentally and physically. She gave me the strength to GO on…
What competitions have you done? And who got you interested?
This is where I started back, at now an emotional and physically fragile state, I found my trainer John – Owner of Versamax Fitness LLC. He began helping me to grow physically and gain strength and eat properly and he pushed me to be the best me I could be. He finally said “Why not try a bikini competition? You can do this.” So I did. I got on the stage for National Physique Committee and have competed for the first time in June of this year. I never thought I would NEVER get my body back. But I rocked the stage with my head held high, because I knew how far I had come along. I won first place in the bikini masters and I competed again at one of the biggest shows in the state of Michigan and I got a 5th and 6th and I am continuing to move on to more.
What kind of sports or activities have you been involved before your illness?
I was always in sports – cheerleading, running track and physical fitness for many years growing up and in the fitness world. I also conducted many health and wellness seminars along with the production of my own aerobic video tape. But never did I think I would or could ever compete. I thought that was way to scary until LIFE threw me a curve ball and I realized that the stage was not fearful at all.
What were your challenges in your body getting contest ready due to your illness?
I had some huge hurdles when I started to workout again. For one thing, my cardiovascular system was shot. I had absolutely no endurance since I was not only trying to heal my body, but had leaking valves in my heart from all the treatments and drugs that I had endured. I started with very small and simple steps to regaining my physique and strength. My left arm was twice bigger/not stronger than my right arm. I felt very insecure about it, I could not even think about doing burpees or push ups, running or cardio let alone anything that would cause me to exert cardio energy. I would be out of breath and strength, almost like having no gas in your tank. But my trainer pushed me and worked with all these obstacles and I started to gain the strength emotionally, physically and I got the bug to do more. But getting ready for a contest was the last thing I thought I would ever be able to accomplish, it was not only a huge milestone for me but a huge VICTORY!! Stepping on the stage and feeling like I was strong!! In a way I had not been in YEARS. Feeling extremely blessed.
In the fitness industry, I am a huge fan of each and every fitness competitor out there. Everyone has a story and/or journey to get to the stage and if not the stage, just the journey of fitness and health. I admire their determination and drive. I also know the dedication it takes to get there.
How does your friends and family respond to where you are today?
I have had huge support from my family and friends. My sister has been there by my side with each competition and has been a huge support for me. And my nieces have always made me feel like I was a winner, no matter what. Especially after knowing all that I had been through and what we all had been through as a family, they picked me up and cheered me and told me… “YOU got this even on days when I felt like I couldn’t.” Such GREAT support.
What is it like to go from being sick to being the hot girl in the bikini?
I have NEVER felt so empowered and strong as I do now. I have to say it is the MOST gratifying and satisfying experience in the world. So GRATEFUL.
How do you like the attention from men and people?
I feel like “who me?” I am surprised and in awe all at the same time. Pleases me to no end. So very lucky and blessed.
What are your future goals in fitness?
I would love to become a spokesperson for a vitamins company and magazine and to inspire people to be the best You that you can be. Always letting people know that it is not wanting to win that makes you a winner, it is refusing to fail. And get my Pro Card in the near future!!
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