Kami Harrison: Mother, Fitness Addict, Breast Cancer Survivor, Inspiration
We have all been taught that leading a healthy lifestyle, one which includes a balanced diet and regular exercise, can help aid our defense against cancer and other illnesses. But many times we are left shocked and stunned when we learn of a young healthy woman being diagnosed with breast cancer. Kami Harrison was that woman.
In 2007, at the age of 32, Kami sat in the doctor’s office as she was delivered the shattering news she had two invasive tumors in her breast, as well as Ductal Carcinoma in Situ breast cancer. Her treatment would be a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. The range of emotions went from extremes of sadness and depression, to fear and anger. But it was her faith that she turned to, particularly the Bible verse Isaiah 41:10, which gave her the courageous spirit she is known for today. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will up hold you with my righteous right hand.”
The word “strength” is a description most would use when speaking of Kami. She made it her purpose to overcome the physical and mental obstacles set before her. Her surgery was extensive and left her with many physical limitations, but she was determined to break the mold and get back to the healthy active lifestyle she was use to leading.
Kami decided to begin her physical recovery by hiring a personal trainer at Epping Forest Yacht Club. This is where I come in to the story and where Kami and I began our journey that I was so blessed to be a part of. We started training just shortly after her surgery was completed. I can still remember my first impression of Kami, as she proudly and courageously walked into our gym, almost completely bald, pretending to ignore all the stares and glances her way. She approached me, with a warm hello and a bubbly smile and asked if I would be interested in training her one on one. I was thrilled, yet nervous as she began rambling off all of her doctor’s dos and don’ts. I secretly wondered if training her was safe or even ok for her health. But I found myself persuaded by her enthusiasm and determination to get fit again and back to feeling strong and healthy, and couldn’t imagine turning down such an opportunity.
Kami started out with easy exercises and very light weights. We had to avoid many upper body exercises and any exercises that used her chest muscles while she continued to recover from the surgery. She was religious about exercise and hardly ever missed a workout. She routinely checked in with her doctors to check her health progress and would report to them her exercise routines. We would often laugh as she would come back many times with even more restrictions and limitations. Kami only saw those obstacles as goals, and I couldn’t help but be inspired myself, and soon her goals became my own. She went from pressing and rowing 6 and 8 pound dumbbells to now pressing and rowing 30 to 35 pound dumbbells – doubling her Doctors initial weight restriction (with their approval, of course) of no more than 17.5 pounds!
Kami’s story has inspired not only me, but an entire gym and fitness community. Our journey even came full circle as Kami became the source of strength for my mother as she battled her breast cancer in 2008. It was during that time that I was blessed to witness yet again another woman, my mom, stand courageously against this disease and overcome it with such grace.
Many times I have had people ask me where Kami finds her energy and strength as they watch her bounce around the gym floor, fit as ever and full of life. After knowing Kami for 5 years, the answer is quite simple. Kami chose victory over defeat, joy over grief, hope over despair and she chose to view her physical limitations as her personal obstacles to conquer.