‘I Thought My Body-Image Issues Were Behind Me. Then I Was Diagnosed With Thyroid Cancer.’

I’m a personal trainer with a large fitness following on Instagram, and the owner of FitLove Studio in Centerville, Ohio (plus a former Women’s Health Next Fitness Star finalist, back in 2016!). My mission in life? To help other women feel confident and strong. But when I was diagnosed this past November with stage 2 thyroid cancer, my world changed—and I no longer could feel the sense of confidence and strength I spent my life trying to help people find within themselves.

In January 2019, I had my thyroid removed and underwent radiation through March 2019. The aftermath was rough; I called it the radiation hangover. The hardest part was feeling miserable and isolated at the same time. I couldn’t have my son or pets around for about a week, as you don’t want to expose other people and animals to radiation in the first four to five days, my doctors explained.

I let the tears fall when I got home after surgery and saw myself in the mirror. I hadn’t worked out in days, I was bloated from the cocktail of IVs and medications I was on, and I had a huge scar across my neck.


G OT I M EThis is where we start the fight. 👊🏼 #FCANCER#ThyroidCancerWarrior

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I cried not because of my battle, but because I thought I looked terrible—and that’s something I regret.

When I sobbed to my boyfriend at home, he kept telling me, “Erica, the scars and symptoms will go away,”and, “You’re beautiful.”

All of the ups and downs I was going through gave me flashbacks to the confidence problems I overcame long before my health issues arose. A little background: I dealt with weight and body image issues my whole life. And in 2014, I decided to embark on a personal weight-loss journey to transform my mind and body and to be an even more active, present mother to my son.

I felt as if the cancer and the surgery had wiped away my femininity.

Within two years, I achieved the personal weight-loss goals I had set and continued to set new ones. I felt unstoppable, strong, self-assured. So my cancer diagnosis was totally shocking and disappointing.

I felt as if the cancer and the surgery had wiped away my femininity. I didn’t feel like the person I worked so hard to be anymore. Deep down I knew that my body had survived so many hard things, yet there I was, judging myself based off what I thought “great” should look like.

On top of everything, I also lived my life on social media, trying to maintain a specific motivational image, someone who radiated confidence. When I shared my diagnosis, many followers would tell me they just wanted me to get healthy and take time to recover. But some people would pounce or feel bold enough to comment the moment they saw me put on weight or witness my body evolve.



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But the thing about the cancer is, you have no choice but to allow the body time to heal and not worry about how your illness might set you back or affect your health or weight-loss progress. And in that sense, cancer humbled me, to say the least.

After my surgery and radiation, when I had so much time to sit alone with my thoughts, there were moments when I would just sit cross-legged in front of my mirror and speak the words to myself, “You are enough as you are”—with tears rolling down my face. I don’t think people always realize that, for some people, a cancer journey can be more of an emotional fight than a physical one.

Up until getting a cancer diagnosis, slowing down to me meant falling behind.


Who inspired me?This kid.I thank God for allowing me to be his Mother. It’s amazing how much our kids TEACH US!Connor has a heart so big, more compassion in his hand then some people have in their whole body and has the ability to make anyone feel like they’rehis best friend. Connor is on an IEP for school. For those who don’t know what that is, he was identified as needing extra help and struggled with dyslexia, fine motor skills and comprehension. As parents when we got his diagnosis and were in meetings with schools my heart sank. His brain works and processes things differently and we’ve had to be patient and understanding that it takes a little more work to make the grades and progress.Today he brought home ANOTHER 10/10 on his spelling test and for many parents that’s not a big deal. However for us, it’s HUGE. He works so hard, he never gives up and always asks for help. He never stops wanting to keep moving forward no matter how frustrating it can be for him.As adults we can learn a lot from the persistence of this little boy.

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In today’s society, and in the world of “fitness Instagram,” some people seem to view taking a break or reducing your intensity in life as weakness. We look at business owners and influencers with huge followings, and they make it seem like if your calendar isn’t booked, or you don’t have content for days, or sexy photos with carved abs, then you aren’t working hard or successful enough. And honestly? There was a time I believed that. I was always so clouded by doing enough and being successful that I let my life slip away. Thanks to cancer, in a strange way, I had to learn to actively steer myself away from that type of thinking.

I have also been so grateful to have my social media platform and community, which helped me cope and feel supported. I even created an Instagram TV segment, during which I forced myself to be completely raw and honest. I cried on camera and shared that I just didn’t feel like me anymore. It’s still my most-watched episode—the amazing outpour of positivity from my followers blew my mind.


SEASONS.The world goes through seasons of change, why wouldn’t you expect yourself to do the same?You’re not made to be on point, growing and always “feeling’ it’ 24/7. You are not meant to be in summer mode ALL year long.Sometimes the Winter mode isn’t a bad thing. It’s where we rest, we love, we take more time in our lives. For when we come back, we come back well rested and ready to tackle the world!Just because I own a fitness studio, or I’m an online trainer or LOVE fitness and health doesn’t mean I am on it 24/7.We all struggle, we all have those moments where our hearts aren’t in it 100% and THATS OKAY!! I think we’ve become a society where we look at admitting that as a flaw, or weak or even “falling behind” when it fact it’s furthest from the truth.Look at this time as a lesson. A lesson to rest, learn, love and come back stronger ever!

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I’m back in the gym. But I no longer think of my life as one long fitness and weight-loss journey.

A few weeks after I was released post-surgery in January, I revisited my health and fitness routine. The gym and my workouts were my safe space, my comfort zone. I craved being there. But when I returned, it felt different. It was no longer about how awesome can I look? It was about let me show you that cancer doesn’t define you and doesn’t have to stop you.


That post sweat feel 💕💦 . – – Coming back from my thyroidectomy to remove my thyroid cancer and undergoing treatments has been harder than I thought . -I’m having to relearn everything about my body. I no longer have a thyroid and my body is starting to remind me on the daily. – My body composition is changing, my weight is being more and more stubborn but I’m ready to learn how to keep going ! Just another part of my journey. Some days are harder to accept than others but nothing worth having comes easy!

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I am no longer so hard on myself. But at the same time, I’ve accepted that it’s still okay to want to achieve new health and fitness goals even through tough times. Do I want to stay in shape and possibly even lose more weight at some point? Yes. Do I want to show people that life after thyroid cancer is tough, but we are tougher? Absolutely.

I’m also making a conscious effort to look forward at all of the amazing things in my life: I have been able to focus on growing my business more since ending my radiation treatment. I actually got diagnosed with cancer the week after I signed the lease on a brand-new retail space and put down a giant check to remodel it. And my new studio is thriving, with over 45 contracted members and 30 personal one-on-one training clients.

I have also launched an online membership that includes full-length workout videos from me each month, lifestyle calendars, and “mindset homework.” At my studio, we also now host a meeting once a month for all clients where we discuss a mental health topic. I have always been a huge advocate that getting healthier starts in your mind and heart. And despite having cancer, I live by that the same message.

I like to say I am a “piece” warrior, because all of the pieces of life that challenge me just make me stronger. So, I try not to look at my health journey as a drag or a chore or a must-do anymore. I view my fitness and health as an opportunity—to enrich my life, to make me the warrior I am meant to be. The emotional road is not perfectly linear, but I’m on my way.

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