Melanie Streng is a cancer survivor.
It was a Tuesday in July and Melanie felt great. She was on her way to her annual checkup, less than a week away from a family vacation to the lake. But during her appointment, her doctor found a lump. “Probably just a cyst,” her doctor assured her, “but since you’re 38, let’s check just to make sure.” At her mammogram the next day, the doctors found not one but two lumps in her breast. By Friday of that same week, Melanie had both lumps biopsied with devastating results – she had breast cancer.
She was leaving for vacation with her family and friends that same day but she didn’t want to worry anyone, let alone ruin the vacation. She shared the news with her husband, Mike, and intended to keep the news secret for the sake of the vacation, but Mike knew the support of friends and family would play a vital role in Melanie’s journey. He encouraged her to share her news and she did. They were all able to enjoy the vacation for the time being but Melanie knew that once she returned home, it was time to get down to business.
A month after diagnosis, Melanie underwent a bilateral mastectomy followed by six months of chemotherapy that left her body extremely weak and fatigued. When she turned to her doctor for help, she was told physical therapy wasn’t necessary. It was at that moment that Melanie realized there was a huge gap in comprehensive cancer care. But what she didn’t realize was this moment was the foundation on which she would rebuild her life.
“I was treated like a 90-year-old lady who is trying to get a teacup out of the cupboard,” she shared. “The doctors get in the weeds with drugs, treatments, surgeries, etc. and there was no support for exercise and the physical element.” Lacking the right support and guidance for regaining her physical strength, she decided to wing it. She started by walking on the treadmill and doing research, which showed exercise helps cancer patients get the drugs pumping through their bodies as quickly as possible – the absolute best thing to maximize the drugs’ effectiveness. Feeling optimistic, Melanie signed up for a 5K that winter with the goal of walking over the finish line. Unfortunately, her body was too weak to achieve this goal. “My body was destroyed and wrecked,” she said. And by the following March, her strength had hit rock bottom.
She then underwent more surgeries and although recovery required some physical therapy, it wasn’t enough. Still, Melanie refused to give up. She was determined to regain her strength and stamina – and that is exactly what she did.
“Staying positive is the best weapon you have for getting through anything like this. There are dark days and dark times, but if you can keep that attitude, overall, it makes a huge impact.”
While researching ways she could get her strength back, Melanie found that exercise is not only a way to prevent cancer but it also helps cancer patients experience fewer side effects, respond better to treatment, and battle fatigue.
Melanie felt the need to share her knowledge and experience to help others fighting a similar fight, so she earned the Cancer Exercise Specialist certification through the Cancer Exercise Training Institute – CEPI. And in November of 2017, Melanie officially launched Fighting Strength Fitness.
Fighting Strength Fitness is a strength training resource for those going through breast cancer treatment as well as breast cancer survivors with a mission to empower, support, and train cancer survivors to be physically strong and fit before, during and after cancer treatments. Melanie designs custom programs for each client that are specific to their cancer, stage of treatment and personal goals along with offering in-person personal training. She also offers support for the mental aspect as well as the physical with moral support that stems from her own cancer battle. Fighting Strength Fitness helps cancer patients and survivors feel less fatigued, recover from treatment, improve their strength, reduce the risk of recurrence, elevate mood and create a positive mindset through safe, effective exercises and the support of a personal cheerleader.
“Even on the worst days of treatment or whatever you may be going through… You may not get physically stronger every day, it may be your mental strength or emotional strength, but always…stronger than yesterday.”
If you or someone you love are battling breast cancer or are a breast cancer survivor and are interested in learning more, visit Fight Strength Fitness online at www.fightingstrengthfitness.com.