CANCER TO THE STAGE - ASHLEY HART

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We see so many people compete on stage without an opportunity to learn more about them. We are left judging based solely on what we see before us. Rightly so considering the sport is primarily about judging physiques side by side. There are no explainations. There is no way to learn about each person's journey. Every person has a unique path to competition. Amongst all these unique stories are many of triumph. I am happy to share Ashley Hart's success as she succeeded and stepped on stage at Ty Hamdan's 2015 Muscle Beach Bodybuilding Classic in Edmonton on October 10. Way to go Ashley! Myself and the entire staff at Status Fitness are so happy to read and share your story. Thank you for sharing.

I want to personally congratulate Ashley on her win against cancer. A healthy attitude and a strong support system are paramount for gaining the upper hand in such a battle. You have a loving husband and now a beautiful baby. With so much to live for Ashley, your life will be amazing. ~ Rodney Jang  

 

Ashley Hart - Cancer to the Stage

 

In April 2011 I was 24 years old and 2 months away from my wedding. I was busy putting together last minute details and planning my honeymoon when I found the lump.

 

I was busy putting together last minute details and planning my honeymoon when I found the lump.

 

 

On May 30, 2011, after ultrasounds, biopsies and doctor visits, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. I was just over 1 month away from my wedding when I was forced into making decisions about surgeries and preserving my fertility. 2 days after I walked down the aisle I had a lumpectomy to remove the mass. 

I thought that surgery would be the only treatment I would need but when I woke up in recovery they told me the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. They had to take out as many as they could (26 to be exact) to ensure it didn’t continue to spread to other organs.

 

...when I woke up in recovery they told me the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.

 

This meant I would need chemo and radiation. Needless to say my honeymoon was cancelled and instead of enjoying my new married life we had to prepare for the fight of my life.

The plan was to have 6 treatments of chemotherapy and 20 treatments of radiation. During this time my doctors thought it might be best to do some genetic testing to see if that could give us a hint as to why I was diagnosed with what is usually known as an older woman cancer. My results came back that I did indeed carry a mutation (BRCA1). This put me at an 85% chance of developing breast cancer a first time and up to a 70% chance of developing it a second time. At this point I felt like I had ticking time bombs on me and I needed to take control and have them removed.

In August 2012, after all my other treatments had finished, I had a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. My reconstruction was complicated by the fact that I had radiation. To ensure that I would be able to handle the implant, part of my pec muscle was replaced with a 15cm piece of my latissimus dorsi muscle. By the end of all my treatments and surgeries I didn’t recognize or trust my body.  I had gained 25lbs during treatment, lost my breasts and had a decent portion of a major back muscle moved to the front of my body. My scars were long and my other muscles had to compensate for the lack of my lat muscle. During this time I was struggling with watching all of my friends around me conceiving and starting a family. The drug I am on for 10 years blocks estrogen so I am not supposed to get pregnant. My husband and I had decided early on in my journey that we would adopt our baby but after 2 years of waiting on the list it felt like it was never going to happen. I started to have issues with depression and anxiety. It felt like my life had completely spiralled out of control and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

 

It felt like my life had completely spiralled out of control and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

 

It was at this time that the gym became my happy place. I felt good lifting weights and I was beginning to have a better relationship with my body. It was so empowering that I wanted to find a way to share my experience with other survivors. I wanted to be able to reach out and show them that they could take back their bodies and they could learn to love the changes they had been through.

 

 

I decided to compete in a figure competition at ABBA’s muscle beach on Oct 10th, 2015. I found an amazing trainer (Bobby Tang) who knew how important it was for me to do this completely natural and very healthy.

Competition prep wasn’t easy. I suffered from lymphedema (a side effect from having so many lymph nodes removed) off and on throughout prep. I struggled with cravings. I worried I wouldn’t be ready and would make a fool out of myself by getting on stage. But more importantly I learned how strong I was.

 

But more importantly I learned how strong I was.

 

 

It may have taken me longer than other people to do, but I can finally do pull-ups (with only a partial lat). I can bench a decent amount of weight even though my pec muscles have been cut through several times and had radiation treatment. I have learned how to love my body again and really listen to what it tells me. I can recognize good pain vs pain I should be wary about. I may not have been the leanest or the most muscular when I walked on stage but I learned so much and I had so much fun. I placed second in my class and I plan to compete in June 2016 at provincials.

 

 

About half way through my training we got a call that a baby boy was being born and the birthparents had chosen us.

 

The best part of prep? About half way through my training we got a call that a baby boy was being born and the birthparents had chosen us. On July 23 we welcomed our son, Taylor, into the world. Maybe next prep he will let me get a bit more sleep. 

 

 

Have a success story or a motivational story you would like Status Fitness to consider for a feature? Be sure to contact David through his website here.

About David Ford

UFC and fitness celebrity cover photographer David Ford is a world renowned, multi-accredited professional photographer by the Professional Photographers of Canada and the Professional Photographers of America, an international author and public speaker. The foundations of David's business include his professionalism, knowledge and skill set.