Elaine Ballard’s family describes her as the “glue” that keeps everyone together. Now as a cancer survivor who has rediscovered the power of physical and emotional wellness, her eyes are firmly affixed on her future.
In March 2018, Ballard realized something just wasn’t quite right with her health, and a mammogram and biopsy confirmed breast cancer.
After a lumpectomy, she was offered two treatment protocols involving chemotherapy and radiation: an aggressive one that would take six months to complete but leave her very fatigued or a less taxing approach that spread treatment over a year.
As a single mom of six with two still at home, she couldn’t take off work and needed to be fully present for her children, so she chose the yearlong option. However, she was still tired – as anyone would be – and that was troublesome for the go-getter who once trained in a gym regularly.
During her recovery, Ballard mentioned to Lynn Lanier, MSN, R.N., ONN-CG, her oncology nurse navigator at the FirstHealth Outpatient Cancer Center, “I wish I could do something [physical], even if I start out small.” Lanier immediately connected her with Cinnamon LeBlanc’s Cancer Wellness Program and Ballard hasn’t looked back.
In the seven-week Cancer Wellness Program supported by The Foundation of FirstHealth, Ballard “started small” just as she requested and progressively increased her physical activity through cardiovascular exercises such as swimming, walking and biking and improved her strength in classes and on weight machines. She particularly enjoyed the meditative yoga classes. “I also learned how to eat better with more fruits and veggies and no more fast food,” she reported.
“Elaine took full advantage of our Cancer Wellness Program, and I think she’s now hooked on continuous improvement,” said Cinnamon LeBlanc, CPT, E-RYT, CES, director of FirstHealth Fitness-Southern Pines and the Cancer Wellness Program. While the seven-week wellness program eventually ended, Ballard’s rediscovered passion for fitness definitely had not, so she extended her FirstHealth Fitness membership. Now she participates in not only physical activities but in numerous lectures and informational programs.
“I feel good!” says Ballard. “I’m cancer free and feel so much better both physically and mentally. Even my doctor noticed that I have lost weight.”
“Elaine’s drive for excellence and positive nature are absolutely infectious,” said LeBlanc. “She started off with only 15 minutes on the spin bikes, but these days I see her going full steam for 45 minutes with no problem. She’s a machine.”
Knowing that Ballard likes new challenges to conquer, LeBlanc mentioned to her the upcoming 1in8k Run for Moore run/walk supporting The Foundation of FirstHealth’s Cancer CARE Fund and mammography scholarships through the Moore Free & Charitable Clinic.
“I didn’t think I could pull off 8 kilometers, which is almost 5 miles, so I told Cinnamon, ‘let’s go with the 1 kilometer walk,’ said Ballard. “She was happy with that and so am I. I’m proud to show my children that perseverance can achieve anything.”
The 1in8k Run for Moore fun run/walk is so named because 1 out of every 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives.
“That’s far too many,” says FirstHealth radiation oncologist Sushma Patel, M.D. “This event and many others around the country are critically important to raise awareness and funding to help reduce the incidence of breast cancer.”
The community event is part of FirstHealth of the Carolinas’ participation in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign held every October to increase awareness of the disease and the importance of early detection.
Another way FirstHealth is celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is by offering a free pink lunch bag with a mammogram at any FirstHealth facility in October. Find locations at www.firsthealth.org/mammogram and call (866) 415-2778 to schedule.
LeBlanc, Ballard and the entire FirstHealth team hope to see many people at the 1in8K Run for Moore event in the Village of Pinehurst on Saturday, October 12. Registration is available the morning of the event. “Elaine says she is just walking the 1k this year, but knowing her, I bet she already has her sights set on running the 8k next year,” said LeBlanc.
Information about the 1in8k Run for Moore is available at www.firsthealth.org/1in8k.
Courtesy photo: Elaine Ballard (center) is pictured at FirstHealth Fitness-Southern Pines with (from left) Patricia Parker, fitness instructor and Cinnamon LeBlanc, facility director.