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CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee -(WDEF) A diagnosis of breast cancer can bring some women to tears for fear of an uncertain future but one Chattanooga woman questioned that diagnosis because she felt she lived a very healthy lifestyle.
"Me, I have cancer, really," said Lynn Chill.
Chill, 51 of Chattanooga was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. In the beginning, she said she couldn't come to terms with the diagnosis because there was no history of breast cancer in her family and she felt she did everything to prevent cancer.
"I eat healthy. I exercise. I'm like the pillar of health and there's no way I have cancer so how is that even possible," Chill said.
Despite what she thought and how she felt at the time, the evidence of cancer was there but fortunately her doctor found the disease in its early stage. There was no need for a harsh treatment like chemotherapy. Surgery was the best option but it would be an option that required the removal of both breast.
Right after the diagnosis, Chill decided to hold off having surgery right away. A week later, Chill took a trip to the Caribbean where she and some close friends competed in a running event called the 8 Tuff Miles
. It was Chill's way of telling cancer it would not get the best of her.
"It was encouraging to have my friends with me because as soon as we came back, I had the surgery," Chill said.
The surgery forced Chill to endure two hours of a double mastectomy procedure to remove cancerous tissue then another two hours of reconstructive surgery.
"My surgeon said the one reason why I did so well in surgery is because I eat well. I was healthy and I was in good shape which helped all around," Chill said.
Four years later, Chill remains cancer free but is required to take medication to keep the cancer from coming back.
"I still take Tamoxifin for five years," Chill said.Tamoxifin
is a drug that blocks the activity of estrogen (a female hormone) in the breast. The blockage of estrogen stops the growth of some breast tumors. Doctors will often prescribe Tamoxifin to breast cancer survivors who underwent surgery or radiation therapy to keep the cancer from coming back. The drug is also used to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women who are at high risk for the disease due to their age, personal medical history, and family medical history.
"I've always been an optimistic person and never thought I wouldn't get through it," Chill said.
Chill further went on to say she relied on encouragement from family and friends who helped her maintain high a spirit but admits the process was mentally frustrating at times.
Chill said before the cancer diagnosis, she was already teaching spin classes and loved working out. When it was safe for her to physically get back into the gym, Chill started hitting the weights even harder to keep her mind off of the thought of cancer and to focus on the how she would live the rest of her life.
Since overcoming cancer, Chill said she has become mentally and physically stronger to the point that she's now training for her first bodybuilding figure competition this summer.
"At first I was nervous about it because of the whole reconstruction thing and I was worried if I could do it but I always felt like I could set a goal toward it and work hard for it so yes, my experience with cancer has motivated me to compete," she said while sporting a black workout shirt with pick letters that read 'Strong is the New Skinny.'
Chill said any woman who is about to go through cancer treatment should seriously research their doctors diagnosis and treatment options. She also recommends talking to other survivors for encouragement.
"It can be encouraging to talk to someone who has been through cancer diagnosis and treatment. Having family and friends around to offer more encouragement also helps," Chill said.
Chill recently took part in a fundraiser in Chattanooga called BRA-VO!, A fashion show celebrating life after breast cancer. Money from the show went toward Breast Cancer Support Services
in Chattanooga. Chill said she felt like it was an event she had to be a part of because not only was it about raising money for cancer support services but also creating awareness for women to get screened for early detection.
"Catching it early like me can save you from having to go through chemotherapy and radiation therapy," Chill said.
Chill said she is enjoying the rest of her life being physically fit and an inspiration to others who may need help getting through the reality of a breast cancer diagnosis.