An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By Michael Easterling | October 3, 2019
Kandace McMenomy Hero | City of Hope
Two-time breast cancer survivor Kandace McMenomy
She is an avid marathon runner, a health fanatic and an adventurer who craves new destinations to explore. Adding “cancer patient” to her personal description never seemed like a possibility — until it was. Kandace McMenomy was diagnosed with Stage 2 estrogen-positive breast cancer at age 30. An avid runner, when she got the devastating news she had just finished the best marathon of her life, which qualified her for the Boston Marathon.

Discipline. determination. Drive.

Immediately, her mind went to: “discipline, determination and drive.” She stored these words that her father used to describe her as she began her journey as a patient — and survivor — of breast cancer, diagnosed for the first time in 2011.  
“My path of life was forever changed,” said McMenomy, who is the patient advocate for City of Hope’s 2019 Walk for Hope, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 3 on the Duarte, California, campus. “I had no idea what was going to happen to me, but I knew in my soul that I was going to live.”
Treated elsewhere following her initial diagnosis, McMenomy underwent a lumpectomy to remove 17 lymph nodes (seven of which were cancerous), had 12 rounds of chemotherapy, a blood transfusion, capillary leakage in her lungs, eight months of the immunosuppressant drug prednisone, 38 rounds of radiation, ongoing physical therapy for lymphedema in her arm and four years of hormone therapy.
After enduring all of that, McMenomy was back, surviving Stage 2 breast cancer. She returned to living her active life to the fullest. “I felt strong and more alive than ever,” she said.
“I was a young breast cancer survivor,” McMenomy said. “I continued seeing my oncologist and having my yearly scans, which were always clear. I reached my five-year cancer-free anniversary and boy, did we celebrate. I had a party with family, friends and clients to rejoice in such a big milestone.”

Stronger Than Ever … and then

It was at a weekly appointment to have the lymphedema in her arm treated that she first noticed what she called a “bump” in her chest. Her heart sank, and after multiple tests, she received the devastating news that her cancer had returned, in the same breast — six months after her five-year anniversary of being cancer-free.  She got the phone call with her diagnosis while she was in the middle of taking an online exam for work.
“I began having a conversation with Lulu, my golden retriever,” she said. “’Lulu, I can have my meltdown now and retake the exam later, or I can keep myself together, finish the exam and then have my meltdown.’ I took Lulu’s advice. I finished the exam and passed. Later, I threw myself on the floor next to Lulu and had my meltdown.”
“Discipline, determination and drive.”
Once again, McMenomy stored these words in her mind as she began her second journey to becoming a breast cancer survivor. This time, she decided to contact City of Hope for a second opinion.

‘Dr. Waisman Made Me Feel Safe’

She was introduced to James Waisman, M.D., medical director of Duarte clinics and a clinical professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research. He would become her medical oncologist.
“I had an instant connection with him and knew he would be my guide to remission,” McMenomy said. “Dr. Waisman made me feel safe. He was direct and thorough when talking with me. I knew City of Hope was the right place for me.”
McMenomy went through 10 more months of treatment, this time oral chemotherapy and injections and, because her cancer was estrogen-positive, made the courageous decision to have her ovaries removed. “It was the best decision for my body,” she said. Approximately 80% of all breast cancers are estrogen-positive, meaning the cancer cells grow in response to the hormone estrogen. Ovary removal substantially reduces the risk of recurrence.
“I often wonder ‘Why me?,’ but I always go back to the recognition that cancer is an indiscriminate serial killer without a conscience or morality,” McMenomy said. “I am a positive person and believe the glass is half full. I know in my heart that cancer would not have been put on my plate, not once but twice, if I wasn’t strong enough mentally, emotionally and physically to handle it.”

Body By Design

Today McMenomy is a successful clinical exercise specialist who runs her own fitness studio called Body By Design OC in Newport Beach. She has been in the fitness industry since 2001. Healthy and strong herself, she dedicates her time to help others achieve their own personal fitness goals while she continues reaching her own (she completed a half-marathon in Vancouver in two hours and four minutes and plans to return to beat her time). 
“You may not be in control of doctor appointments or how you feel, but you can exercise,” she said. “Go for a walk, do an online yoga class or hire a trainer to help you. Control what you can.”
McMenomy remains in remission, cancer-free, living “a meaningful and joyful life.” 
“A big thank you from the bottom of my heart to Dr. Waisman, the nurses and my care team at City of Hope,” she said. “It is because of the discipline, determination and drive City of Hope has to treat and cure cancer that I am a survivor.”

Walk for Hope 2019 Ambassador

McMenomy said she is excited to lead the other survivors, their families and friends, and City of Hope employees and physicians through this year’s Walk for Hope.
“Maybe I was meant to have this experience to help others who are going to be walking in my shoes,” she said. “I truly hope in my heart that people who are in their own fight can see my journey that I stumbled through as a beacon in the dark.”  
You can join McMenomy on Nov. 3 to raise funds and walk, or you can support the cause online. Find out how to get involved here.

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