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Finding Strength to Fight Cancer Through Exercise

Meggan Janota has been battling breast cancer since 2009. Not one to let her diagnosis get in her way, Meggan ran two half marathons and learned how to surf in Costa Rica while in treatment. Her story of strength shows how exercise and friends have been a support to her.

I had scheduled my yearly gyno appointment and totally forgot about it.  I blew it off, and was pretty annoyed that I had to go because, really, who has the time? After all, I was training for my 2nd half marathon and working full time. I finally rescheduled and the doctor did a breast exam.  After taking one slight touch, she peeled back quickly.

“Oh!  You don’t feel that?”

She could see the immediate fear on my face and backpedaled.  My family was riddled with cancer including my grandmother and aunt on my dad’s side so they scheduled my mammogram for the next week, and the woman on the phone ended our conversation with “good luck to you”.  I was officially terrified.  I went by myself, and it didn’t take long for the diagnosis to be delivered- ill fated words; cancer and chemotherapy.  I’m sure everyone in the office heard my gasp, I was in such shock.  I was 31, took care of myself, and was in the best shape of my life, how could this be happening?

Things happened rather quickly after that.  I met all of the doctors that would now be in my life for the next few years, and started treatment, not before I finished my half marathon though.  I took out all of my fear and anger on the race and had a personal best.  My wonderful friends went with me to get my long hair chopped and then we donated it to locks of love.  I started chemo the next week.  The rest of my hair soon followed, with my mom shaving it.  The chemo was long and painful, going on for 16 weeks.  I was sick, bedridden, and had no hair, eyelashes or eyebrows.  Nothing tasted good, and I had no energy; by the time the chemo wore off, it was time to go back for more.  I remember looking in the mirror and thinking I was just a shell of a person.

I had a beautiful response to the chemo, shrinking the tumor completely, and had minimal damage from the radiation.  I had several months before the reconstruction surgery, and it was nice to not have to go to any sort of treatment, and get on with my life.  In May 2010, I scheduled my reconstruction, and woke up that morning with pretty powerful headache.  So bad, my plastic surgeon made a comment that I didn’t look good, but I was determined to finish this surgery and be done!  My headache persisted, so I went to my family doctor.  She told me that I had a sinus infection, and prescribed some meds and rest.  It seemed to subside, but still lingered, at work the next week I was not able to read my emails.  I thought now that I had been through cancer, my body chemistry had changed, and so migraines would now be a part of my life.  I shrugged it off until later that evening.  I was at a friend’s house, and decided that this headache was not normal, and asked my friend to take me to the emergency room.

“You have two brain tumors.”

They did an MRI, and after waiting several hours, the doctor came back. “You have two brain tumors.  We are going to take you up to ICU right away.”   All of the liquid drained from my face, I couldn’t ever cry.  I was never so scared in my life.  I had to undergo two risky brain surgeries, and made it through relatively unscaved.

Later that year in November, more tumors were found.  Unfortunately the traditional methods for brain tumor treatment were not possible this time, so I had to undergo full brain radiation.  Again, I had a great response.  The lesions in the brain disappeared and the body stayed stable.  I was put on a clinical trial in May 2011, and it shrank the remaining tumors even further.  I thought I had found my miracle drug, and life was good!

I went on a trip to Costa Rica to learn how to surf, sponsored by Project Athena, which helps women recovering from horrible illnesses become athletes again.  Then in June of 2012, I went on another surf trip, but suffered a painful headache the week before.  I called my doctor the next week, and sure enough, there were new two new lesions.  I had to be taken off the clinical trial, which was a real blow. It had been working so well for me- it didn’t seem fair to take me off of it.  I underwent gamma knife radiation, but while they were doing the procedure, 20 new lesions were found.

This takes me to today – I had my first dose of carboplatin this week which crosses the blood brain barrier.  We are all hoping and praying that I will have the same success I have ad in the past.  I believe that I have made it this far for a reason.  Last week, my Dr. told me he originally thought I had only 6 months to live.  I beat that- so I am supposed to be here.  I refuse to give up, or give up anything I want for cancer.  I think being active and staying positive have affected the results of my disease leaps and bounds, so I will keep doing what I am doing, and pray a lot!

Whose world will you change?