Lucia Hagy is the definition of a fighter. As a young athlete, she was a champion runner, winning multiple Idaho State Championships in cross country and track. Her accolades earned her a scholarship to run for powerhouse University of Montana, where she helped her team win two Mountain West Championships, and she placed seventh and fifth overall in 1983 and 1984, respectively. After college, she continued racing competitively, where she pursued duathlon races, distance relay races, and eventually worked her way up to a marathon, where she clocked a time of 3:24.
When Hagy turned 50, she decided to pursue a new set of fitness goals. However, life had other plans in store for her when she received a surprising breast cancer diagnosis. She shares her journey in her own words:
In 2014, I turned 50 and I wanted “50 to be the new 40” – I wanted to be fit at 50. I was working with a physical therapist to get back into running by learning how to overcome some nagging running injuries. I was on track literally.
They say one out of eight women get breast cancer sometime in their life. Those statistics are backed up with real women. I drew the short straw and took that spot. There is longevity in my family. My mom is 86 with no history of breast cancer and my dad will be 90 this year. I have two older sisters with no breast cancer. So yes, I asked myself “Why me?”
Prognosis and Decision
I had my annual mammogram one year after my previous one, exactly to the day. A week later, I found out that I had invasive ductal carcinoma with lobular features, stage 1, grade 2. My first option was lumpectomy followed by daily radiation. The surgeon said that the radiation could potentially damage my lungs and my carotid arteries. And then, because I have dense breast tissue, I would need an MRI every six months the rest of my life to look for breast cancer. I didn’t like option one. I didn’t want to chance damaging my lungs and I didn’t want to live in fear every six months the rest of my life.
So, with the support and help of my oldest daughter and my husband, we decided to go with option two, bilateral mastectomy. I also chose breast reconstruction, which is a journey in itself. A week before surgery, I ran 800s on the track and felt so great. Two days before surgery, longtime friend Leslie Keiser went for a run with me and after three miles, we went two more because I felt so good and so strong…I was finally injury-free and fit at 50.
My bilateral mastectomy surgery was December 19th, 2014. Because chest muscles were involved, the mastectomy with tissue expanders surgery was much tougher than I expected. Two more surgeries followed: on March 12th, 2015, my ovaries were removed, and on March 16th, 2015, I had final breast reconstruction. Since my cancer was estrogen positive, I went on aromatase inhibitors, which effectively block any remaining estrogen from being produced by your body even after your ovaries are removed. The strategy is to starve any possible remaining cancer cells by blocking their food source, which is estrogen. The daily anti estrogen pill should be taken a minimum of five years. I am almost halfway through that five-year period today.
Recovery and Rediscovery
The daily cancer pills were taking their toll on my bone density and causing joint pain in my hands and feet. Additionally, my cholesterol levels were rising. After one year of taking the aromatase inhibitor cancer therapy pills, I had lost 12% bone density in my spine. Plus my hands and feet were aching even when I did absolutely no exercise.
I needed to find something. For the bone density, I needed a weight bearing exercise to combat bone density loss. For the joint pain, I needed something that was not going to impact my feet and wrists. For my elevated cholesterol levels, I needed diet and exercise. My University of Montana teammate, Scott Drennen, purchased an ElliptiGO bike and was an avid fan. Scott placed ninth overall in the 2016 ElliptiGO World Cycling Championships held in San Diego. He was sharing his thoughts with me and I was intrigued. After many weeks of research and Scott’s encouragement, I purchased my ElliptiGO 8C in July 2016. I have had no regrets. It was the best decision I have made. The ElliptiGO bike was a bit intimidating to ride that first week, but one year later, I feel I have mastered coming to quick stops and avoiding typical hazards that you deal with while on bicycle.
The ElliptiGO bike meets all my fitness goals without any pain to my joints. I have my runner’s high back again, which is awesome. Runners know how much that endorphin rush replenishes the spirit and I missed that so much but it’s back – in ElliptiGO form.
Bone density only comes from weight bearing exercises, so swimming or sitting on a bicycle seat doesn’t give you the bone density improvements like the ElliptiGO does. However, being on your feet on the ElliptiGO does not equate to the impact injuries that come from running. The elliptical pattern prevents any impact injuries to my joints. Cycling caused pain to my wrists, neck, and lower back. I have adjusted the handle bars on the ElliptiGO bike so that my elbows are nearly at a 90 degree angle, so my wrists are not feeling the weight of keeping me upright and therefore pain free. The ElliptiGO bike requires an upright posture, so my spine and neck are in a straight line and therefore pain free. It really is the perfect replica of running but without impact.
I love how free I feel on my ElliptiGO bike. I feel like a kid again. I feel exhilarated riding in the fresh air, feeling the breeze on my face, and seeing the trees rush by. I can’t stand working out in a gym, I have to be free and ElliptiGO is so liberating! After two years of surgeries, the ElliptiGO has given me my life back.
I would advise people facing serious health situations to not ever give up. Never surrender! Do the best you can. Don’t dwell on what you can no longer do. Instead appreciate all the things you still can do and be open to adapt. Life has handed you a bum deal now – adapt and take your life back. Go live life, no regrets! Quit waiting for better and go complete your bucket list now!