Before 2012, Jaclyn Alterwein didn’t personally know anyone with breast cancer. But that all changed with the diagnosis of her mom then two more close friends, one of whom was just 40 years old.
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She says, “I went from knowing none of the ‘1 in 8’ to immediately knowing 3 of them.”
From Co-Survivor to Survivor
This experience rattled Jaclyn, who had not previously considered her breast health a priority. Jaclyn’s next mammogram prompted months of tests. As she awaited the results anxiously, her mom and friends were always on her mind. “It was heart-wrenching,” she says. “I witnessed the physical and emotional effects of this disease and chemo” close up.
Finally, Jaclyn received the news she’d hoped wasn’t coming. She became #4 of the ‘1 in 8’ in her own life.
Her experience as a co-survivor served her well. At appointments with her mom and friends, she’d asked questions, searched for answers and learned to advocate on their behalf. Now she had to focus those skills on herself.
Still, nothing prepared her for what it was like to receive a breast cancer diagnosis.
“As much as I thought I understood what my mom and friends were facing, I did not. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed that I could relate to my pink sisters.”
Fitness as Her Platform
As a long-time instructor at CycleBar, a fitness cycling company, Jaclyn already took great care of her body. But she had no idea how important this would be as she recovered from a double mastectomy.
“Now,” she says, “being physically fit has more meaning. Coming into my treatment strong meant that I was able to get back to myself quicker and with less chance of complications. I didn’t realize I was setting myself up for a successful recovery.”
While exercise helped her recovery, the road back wasn’t easy. After surgery, Jaclyn couldn’t lift her arms and had trouble completing everyday tasks. For someone so independent, she struggled asking others for help. It was difficult to see how much her breast cancer had affected her life.
But CycleBar is also where she found her voice. Jaclyn passionately spoke about breast cancer to educate other women. She talked in her classes and posted on social media during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, sharing the lessons she’d learned.
Jaclyn says, “It’s not in my personality to speak up or out much, so this was a big step for me. But I knew too much, and I had the opportunity to help others.”
Now 2.5 years later, Jaclyn is the strongest she’s ever been. She says CycleBar had a lot to do with that.
“The sanctuary that I was able to get lost in with our riders. The challenges we faced together on the bike transferred to my challenges off the bike. They still do. And I encourage my riders to do the same… take one hill at a time, one sprint, one gear interval one at a time so that we can take life’s challenges simply one at a time.”
Jaclyn’s Advice to Newly Diagnosed
Take it all one day at a time. One test at a time. Try not to think too far into the future or of all the possibilities. Our minds tend to go to the negative. I deliberately surround myself (actually brainwash myself) with positive messaging to combat the innate tendency to think negatively. And speak to those that have been through a diagnosis themselves.
You are so not alone. There are so so many of us Pink Sisters out there! I did not realize how many until I was one myself.
- Reach out to YSC for support and guidance. Navigating diagnosis and treatment can be overwhelming.
- Reach out to me on my Instagram page.
- Find a local support group.
- Get advice from those who have been through it already.
- Write down your medical questions (don’t think you’ll remember all of them) and take them to your doctor.
- Then write the doctors answers down, so you can remember those too 🙂
- Have a bestie with you at all appointments to write down the doctor’s answers and more importantly, hold your hand.
Jaclyn Alterwein is a mother, dancer, women’s advocate, Lead CycleStar @CycleBar Montvale & CycleStar @CycleBar Montclair, former NY Knicks City Dancer/Captain/Choreographer, entertainment producer, and friend. She is currently enrolled in an IIN Holistic Health Coach training program and will graduate in March.