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Mary Jo’s #UNSTOPPABLE Journey

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, every Tuesday in October we will be sharing the stories of our members and staff who have beaten breast cancer. If you or anyone you know has beaten or currently has breast cancer and is a member at Xperience Fitness, email [email protected] for a chance to share your story and inspire and educate others. 

On January 20, 2018, Mary Jo Bellinger, a longtime fitness instructor at Xperience Fitness Greenfield, was given news no person deserves to hear, “You have been diagnosed with breast cancer.” On January 12, during a routine 3D mammogram, Bellinger’s doctor found an area of concern. A needle biopsy later, and the doctors had confirmed what they saw was, in fact, breast cancer. 

The next steps for Bellinger would be to get a breast MRI, genetic testing, and a pre-operative physical ordered by her surgeon. If everything came back without any concerns, Bellinger would qualify for a lumpectomy. A lumpectomy is a surgery to remove cancer or other abnormal tissue from the breast. Unlike a mastectomy, only a portion of the breast is removed. This surgery is usually reserved as a first treatment option for people with early-stage breast cancer and is typically followed by radiation therapy to the breast, reducing the chances of the cancer returning. Bellinger’s results came back and she found she would be able to get the lumpectomy surgery. So, on February 20, Bellinger had a needle localization and a lumpectomy. 

The doctors originally thought Bellinger had stage 2 but after the surgery, she was reduced to stage 1. Luckily, Bellinger discovered her tumor was smaller than the doctors expected, had clear margins, and they found no cancer in the lymph node. 

After her surgery, Bellinger went through two occupational therapy appointments, but the occupational therapist found that she could move beyond the normal range of motion at that stage post-operative. As a result, Bellinger was given a few exercises to do until her next appointment at the beginning of June 2018. That June, Bellinger was dismissed from occupational therapy. 

After just 20 days of medical leave, Bellinger began teaching 18 classes at Xperience Fitness again. Just shortly after she began teaching again, she began receiving 21 radiation treatments that took her to the end of April 2019. Fortunately, Bellinger had very few side effects. 

This past June, Bellinger returned to the radiation doctor and was dismissed. Then, in July, Bellinger had blood work completed by the oncologist. Her blood work came back without any issue. Now, Bellinger just has to get her blood taken every six months for the next five years to ensure the cancer is not returning. Although she has undergone many procedures, Bellinger said the pain she felt was minimum. 

Being diagnosed with cancer can be overwhelming, numbing, scary, confusing, and sad, among a slew of other emotions. During this incredibly challenging time, Bellinger was grateful for the group fitness staff and management at Xperience Fitness Greenfield. 

“Many instructors stepped up and subbed my three weeks of classes as I recovered from surgery,” Bellinger expressed. “… The staff and members were very supportive through their words of encouragement, hugs, cards, acts of kindness, messages, and prayers. I was very humbled and blessed during this journey by the outpouring of love and support from so many members and staff at Xperience.” 

Since Bellinger has been teaching at Xperience since 2007, the staff and members of fitness classes have become like her second family. 

“Weekly, I continued to witness all of their love and compassion as I battled breast cancer which showed me no one fights cancer by themselves!” Bellinger exclaimed. “Thank you, Xperience staff and members, for being the supportive warriors behind this journey in my life!”