At 47, Jaclyn Alterwein’s life had been rocked by breast cancer more than once. Over the past six years, she has helped her mom and several close friends through their personal battles with the disease. Two years ago, both she and her sister received their own diagnoses.
Following her diagnosis, Jaclyn decided to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery almost immediately. It wasn’t until she returned to her job as a CycleBar instructor, where she could barely ride at half of her usual speed, that the reality of her diagnosis really hit her. But when life gives you a lemon called breast cancer, Jaclyn says, “Turn it into pink lemonade!”
More than a year later, Jaclyn believes her recovery wouldn’t be where it is today without her job and the CycleBar community that supported her physically, mentally and emotionally. She uses her platform as an instructor to spread awareness and host fundraisers for breast cancer survivors. Fitness truly changed her life after cancer.
1. When I discovered about my condition
That’s an interesting story. It all started at my last annual mammogram in December 19, 2016, just a few days before my 46th birthday. The mammo showed suspicious calcifications. I went through months of testing, including biopsies, ultrasounds, more mammos and second opinions. Finally, after three and a half months of testing, I received my diagnosis. My surgeon didn’t even have to say it. I knew it the moment she walked in the exam room. Fortunately, the breast cancer, DCIS, was found at one of the earliest stages possible. Although it hit me hard (I don’t have the words to truly describe that moment), once I gathered my emotions, I weighed the options and decided to take the most aggressive approach, obliterating that beast with my first shot. My double mastectomy was my choice… an extremely difficult choice, but one that I am incredibly grateful for now.
2. My fitness routine
Fitness and health have always gone hand in hand for me. My father was a physician, and incredibly bright man. I grew up learning from him about the importance of health, fitness and nutrition. It’s no wonder I have opted to live a healthy lifestyle and I am so grateful to him for instilling that in me. A natural-born dancer, I remember taking aerobics classes when I was about 11. I loved that it felt like dancing. I fed off the energy of the others in the room! I continued to dance and cheer as a teenager. I started dancing professionally at 18 years old while going to college, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Adult Fitness from Kean College. During my career as a dancer and choreographer, my fitness routine was aimed mostly at improving my cardiovascular endurance. I spent lots of time on treadmills, ellipticals and stair mills outside of a grinding rehearsal and performance schedule.
After the birth of my first son 18 years ago, I still had a significant amount of weight to lose. I had gained 52 pounds! Fortunately, I was in my best condition going into my pregnancy (6 seasons with the NY Knicks City Dancers definitely helped!). I finally went back to the “gym”, again using the same cardio machines, light weights and some group fit classes. Along with a change in my diet, the weight started to come off. I gained only 27 pounds with my second son – I learned my lesson the first time! About 7 years ago I started to dabble in yoga which has turned into one of my absolute favorite forms of fitness. Eventually, I went back to my first love, dance. I created and taught dance fitness classes which jumpstarted my fitness career, the second time around. I had heard about indoor cycling but had never had the guts to try it. Not being a “cyclist” I could not understand why people found it so appealing. I finally took my first class 3 years ago. I was hooked immediately. I started to take classes in the gyms I was teaching dance fitness at. Then in August 2016, I stumbled upon the job post for a CycleBar CycleStar. Having no experience as an indoor cycling instructor, I honestly didn’t think they’d even look at my resume. I’m so glad they did! Little did I know that only a few months after making the cut and beginning my career as a CycleStar, I would be diagnosed with breast cancer. Since becoming a CycleStar, the majority of my fitness is spent on the bike, taking yoga, resistance band training and light weights.
3. My diet pattern
I don’t have a specific diet I stick to other than fairly clean eating. My dad always said, “If it comes from the ground or a plant, it’s meant to be eaten!” Fortunately, I have always loved fresh vegetables and fruit. Both have always been a big part of my diet. I gave up red meat about 26 years ago. In the last year, I have significantly reduced my chicken and dairy intake. Fish (primarily salmon) and other seafoods are faves as well as roasted veggies like brussels sprouts, kale and broccoli. I miss yogurt but absolutely love unsweetened almond milk! After the birth of my first son, I realized the impact bread and pasta were having on my weight. When I cut both out, the baby weight fell off immediately! Since then, other than the occasional pizza (gotta treat yourself too!), I take in very limited amounts of bread and pasta. My next challenges are eliminating sugar and slowly, but surely, I plan on eliminating all processed foods. Of course, lots and lots of water… and my homemade ginger turmeric green iced tea… I love it!
4. How fitness helped me grow out of this disease
Thank goodness I was already active and health conscious when I was diagnosed! My surgeons confirmed that my fitness level sped up my recovery and healing time. I was in great shape going in to my double mastectomy at 46 years old. I had been a CycleStar for about 6 months prior to my surgery, which significantly lowered my body fat and elevated my cardiovascular endurance. But, more importantly, CycleBar helped me through my emotional and spiritual recovery which was far more challenging than the physical. Any cancer patient I’ve spoken to understands exactly how that feels. Being able to lose myself to the music in rides, get caught up in the beat, cry when I needed to, and steadily witness my physical comeback – it empowered me. And my CycleBar family… I can’t say enough about them and their support! Thank you! I now know CycleBar came into my life just a few months prior to that last annual
mammogram for a reason. I will always be incredibly grateful for that. And, now I get to share my experience with my riders, helping them as they navigate through their own journeys and challenges, whatever they may be… mind, body and soul.
Finally, it is extremely important that readers understand why I share my story… I share as long as the those on the receiving end learn from my experience. It’s really simple… #AnnualMammosSaveLives
It is a message I was spreading for over 4 years prior to my own diagnosis. After holding the hands of my mom & 2 dear friends through their breast cancer battles and having witnessed the impact their annual mammograms had, I realized just how important annual mammograms truly are. I started to spread my message on social
media, in my dance fitness classes, and pretty much anyone who would listen. My own experience is the epitome of the message I was already spreading.
A believer in everything happens for a reason, I feel
compelled to share my story in the hopes
of saving lives, until we have a cure. For those reading this, know that finding breast cancer early significantly improves your chances of beating it while also having more treatment options. It is ok to be scared… I was. Choose Courage – walk forward in the face of fear, so you can make the call to schedule the appointment, to walk in the door, and to get that annual
mammogram. It saved my life. I know it can save yours too.
With love, Jaclyn.
My breast cancer journey can be followed at #AnnualMammosSaveLives