Name: Ellen Pollack
Fitness and Pilates Instructor at THE GYM
When I was 36 years old my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a result, I became vigilant about checking and re-checking my own body. Three years went by until at age 39, while in prime physical condition, I felt a strange lump on the right side of my breast.
The lump would hurt before my menstrual cycle and go away almost completely afterwards. Although I was nervous initially, my doctors dismissed it as swelling from my normal hormonal cycle. Life went on…
I had my annual mammography the following year as usual. This time, though, things were different. The technician hesitated and asked me to step in the machine again. My gut told me then what the radiologist, gynecologist, and surgeons would later confirm. The biopsy was clearâ€¦ I had breast cancer.
My head was spinning, my legs were shaking, and my mind was racing. I sat with my husband as the breast surgeon explained that I had aggressive breast cancer. I am the mother of three children — my bottom line was living. With the support of my family, I decided to have a double mastectomy to ensure that there wouldnâ€™t be a re-occurrence.
As a fitness professional at THE GYM in Armonk, NY, I specialize in Pilates, yoga, spinning, and weight training. I knew that as soon as I could regain my movement I would feel alive again. I underwent the surgery on a February morning and two weeks later was back on the treadmill, spinn bike, and the Pilates reformer. My doctors were sure that I was in denial. I was sure that movement meant life, wellness and some sense of control.
I had five years of treatments including chemotherapy, arimidex (hormonal treatment), and herceptin (monoclonal antibody treatment). I remained active and continued to teach and train my clients the whole way through.
I am proud to be a 7-year breast cancer survivor feeling better than ever. A few years ago I became a group leader for a young womanâ€™s breast and ovarian cancer support group. Itâ€™s been a great way to help others talk about their situations in an environment free from judgment and full of love and support.
Above all else, I feel blessed to be here and to help others through whatever obstacles they may face in their lives. In my work at THE GYM I focus on the positive with my clients. Many come to me with a combination of emotional and physical challenges, such as adapting to a limited range of motion after surgery. I do my best to help them recognize that any setback can be conquered one step and one day at a time.
Now my personal experience as a breast cancer patient, combined with my professional training in fitness and clinical social work, helps me to do what I enjoy most — empower both women and men suffering from demons of any kind â€“ life-threatening or not.