This Is Carolina: Breast cancer survivor credits gym for her strength to help others
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Michelle Apple loves lifting weights and lifting spirits for women diagnosed with breast cancer.
“When you’re going through this journey and anybody’s that gone through it, it is extremely draining,” said Apple.
And Michelle knows because she is a four-year breast cancer survivor.
“You go through all the stages. You go through anger, you go through denial. You go through, you’re going to fight this, you’re going to beat this. And then you have your bad and good days,” she said.
Michelle said doctors first misdiagnosed her after she discovered a lump under her armpit. She later returned for another check-up when her mother lost her battle with cancer.
“I ended up finding out that I was stage three. I had 23 lymph nodes cancerous. I had a mastectomy. I had my ovaries removed. And then in addition to that, I had months of radiation and chemo,” Apple said.
But, Michelle’s positive outlook on life never wavered. She was determined to focus on what she could control instead of what she couldn’t.
“Find some type of normalcy as you’re going through it because it can take over your whole life, and for me, the gym was the place,” Smalls said.
The registered dietician and fitness competitor not only gained muscle, but she also gained friendships. Those friendships started with the staff at Planet Fitness.
“They knew what day I was going to be here and they would be at the front desk with a letter, with a little message of hope. Something to make me smile. Footies. And those things meant the world to me because it was coming from strangers,” Apple said.
The kindness from her gym buddies also inspired Michelle to help others and in 2019, she founded the Apple Breast Cancer Warrior Foundation.
“We educate, we advocate and we help support breast cancer patients through this long financial and emotional journey,” she said. “We help pay for travel expenses and also medical bills that aren’t covered obviously through insurance. And what we do is as long as the funding is there, we help where we can help.”
Her foundation is full of fun events to help raise money, which also pays for comfort bags. The bags are full of thoughtful goodies and encouraging words that are delivered to cancer centers throughout the Grand Strand.
“When I get messages back from these patients that say, ‘Michelle, I can’t tell you, we loved all the goodies in the bag. We loved the message of hope.’ What a rewarding feeling,” she said. “I think a lot of times with the breast cancer journey, you have to find a way to push forward and find other avenues other than just being defined by breast cancer. Don’t let it define you. Push forward.”
And if you can’t find that strength, Michelle says she has plenty to give.
“Have your bad days. But, understand you need to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and that next day know it’s a new day. Don’t let it define you but let it inspire you to help others and reach out to our foundation.”
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