One of the greatest gifts in the work that I do is the real human connection I make with the Fit Thrive community. One of my fondest and deepest connections I’ve made in the four years I’ve run this site is with Melanie Testa. Melly came to Get Glutes after working with one of our founders Marianne Kane. She was a sponge; absorbing everything she could about fitness, asking questions like a precocious child who’d discovered something utterly fascinating in the world. She purchased Strong Curves and completely submersed herself in our weightlifting culture.
Melly came to us after a double mastectomy and round of chemotherapy. She opted out of reconstruction and made the decision to heal through fitness. Her fitness journey began during chemo and she hasn’t stopped since. Her journey is nothing short of inspiring as she has made huge waves in the body positive community. She chose not to lose her identity with her breast, and opted instead to find a new one. She has advocated extensively for flat women and became an impactful spokeswoman in her community.
I went into this business with the idea that I was going to change the lives of other women. I had no clue how much other women would change my life. Melly has definitely done that.
I am an artist, I love surface design, quilting, painting, and visual expression of all types. I am married to a good man and we just celebrated 22 years of marriage a few weeks ago. We never had children, but we enjoy caring for a small feline fur person. I have always eaten well, mostly whole foods. I have never had an eating disorder, or a negative sense of body image, and I have always been within 10 pounds of my ideal body weight. For many a year I happily made art, ate whatever I wanted, proceeded without care or overall connection to my body. Until, that is, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer changed everything for me. It was a wake up call like no other, and it asked me to make major changes to my body and my person. I was told I needed a total mastectomy of my right breast. I was a double D at diagnosis. I did my research, found imagery of reconstructive results for my cancer type and stage and I was less than impressed. I learned that reconstruction is not comparable to augmentation. I interviewed two plastic surgeons and soon realized, I did not want to reconstruct my body, I did not want an asymmetrical body, and had no interest in wearing breast forms or presenting an image that was not mine.
I chose not to reconstruct, and I do not wear breast forms to replace my loss.
I have always maintained a healthy perspective with food. I respect ingredient lists, I do my best to eat ethically with respect to both the earth and animals. Upon diagnosis, the one puzzle piece that was lacking in my life was exercise. Within a few weeks of my diagnosis, my good man and I bought a Wii Fit, figuring I could use it, while limiting my exposure to germs, as my body was weakened by treatment. I ‘biked’ and played ‘tennis’ every day during the nine months of treatment. This was my first experience with committed exercise!
While I did this, I searched the internet for exercise blogs. It was as if I was doing a reverse search, looking for bodies I wanted to emulate, while assessing what type of exercise provided the results I sought. Weightlifting became my ideal.
Body positivity and self care became a focus of great interest, too. I looked to weight lifting as a means to build confidence and connect my intellect to my muscles, bones and body. This is an important connection I felt was missing prior to my diagnosis.
All the while I questioned why, if 58% of women diagnosed with breast cancer -did not- reconstruct their bodies, had I never met a flat or half flat-chested woman? I mourned the fact that I had no role models, that my body was not represented even on the sites where I researched treatment options.
Because of this, I decided to make space for myself and women like me by posing in awareness projects like Grace, which led me to working with Play Out underwear, HuffPo, Women’s Health and so many other venues.
I did all of this while working with consistency to lift at least three times a week, if not more. My entry into working with Get Glutes programming came through Marianne Kane and kettlebell training through her online service. Marianne helped me with form while I rebuilt strength and confidence after treatment was complete. Marianne introduced me to Kellie and the Fit Thrive/Get Glutes community.
I must admit, at first, I was a bit intimidated, thinking I had landed myself in the midst of competitive bikini models and me, with no breasts! But I must say, this was not the case. I rely on and can’t live without this group! I check in daily. I celebrate each person's success. I read Kellie’s articles with excitement, and I find love and care in this community of strong, strong women.
I have experienced set backs, of course. Earlier this summer, I broke my elbow and I am working to rehab it with a positive mental perspective. I have learned that when this type of thing happens you continue to train, working all parts of your body that you are able. Just like when you break your diet, or fall of the exercise band wagon, there are times when you just need to remind yourself, this isn’t so bad. There is no need to stop training, just pick up the pieces and keep going.
Now, after 4 solid years of lifting and exercise, I see the value of maintaining a committed practice. I appreciate checking in with my whole body, and feeling the muscles I am challenging. The side benefit of wanting to improve my diet is welcome, too. While one day I would love to see six-pack abs and slightly less fat on my body, I am completely satisfied with experiencing this new, improved, and more integrated sense of self.
I am grateful to Kellie and the Fit Thrive community for helping me transform my body and mind.
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