On October 29th, we’re Rowing For A Cause. The cause? Bright Pink, the only national breast cancer organization that focuses on prevention. When one of our #FixxFam, Kristina Coccoluto, shared her story with us, we just knew we had to share it. If you HAVEN’T met Kristina yet, you’re missing out, and you’ll get the chance to on the 29th. She consistently works hard on the rower and on the mat, and is one of the friendliest people we know. Nothing ever seems to stand in her way. So, we decided to chat with Kristina this week to learn more about her story, her connection to Bright Pink, and why she’s taking on the challenge.
So, on October 29th, we’re setting 10,000 meters on those rowers and pushing ourselves to our limits, stepping out of our comfort zone with each and every stroke.
We’re gearing up for our Rowing For A Cause 10K to benefit Bright Pink! Firstly, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you were introduced to Bright Pink?
My heart is so full!
I’m so honored the Sweat Fixx community is coming together to raise funds for an organization so near and dear to my family. A little bit more about myself? The #FixxFam might know me as the one who can do half of a push up, sort of. Here is why…
I have a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer. I grew up watching my mom battle this disease, as well as both of my mom’s sisters. I always knew I was high risk for breast cancer, but ultimately when our family lost my Aunt Katie – I knew I needed to get tested for the BRCA genetic mutation. I found out I was BRCA1 positive when I was 25 years old. I learned I had an 87% risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer and up to 50% risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in my lifetime. Although the news wasn’t a total shock, it still felt alarming to know the disease my family has been dealing with for generations most likely wouldn’t escape me. I learned how to manage my risk with biannual mammograms, mostly organic diet, and exercise.
Fast forward four years later, I had married my high school sweetheart and gave birth to our first baby girl. She was 15 months old when one day found a lump in my breast.
My heart stopped.
I knew my risk was high, but I had just been screened. There was no way I could have my daughter grow up fearing for my health.
I immediately called my PCP. After several screening measures, my doctor confirmed the solid mass in my chest needed to be biopsied, but due to the massive snow storms we experienced in February 2015 (you all remember when the snow was higher than stop signs), my results would take over a week.
During that time, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I am so fortunate and I DID NOT HAVE BREAST CANCER. But the anxiety that I had a ticking time bomb in my chest didn’t go away.
I did what any of you would do. I went to Google.
I Googled “doesn’t have breast cancer but is high risk” and first item to pop up was a link to Bright Pink. It was like the Universe gave me exactly what I needed to move forward with my life.
A BRCA1 mutation is so rare, less than 10% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have this mutation. The only way to reduce my risk was a preventative double mastectomy. So in January 2016, I brought my risk from 87% to under 5%.
You and a couple other #FixxFam members took on a MARATHON, both the running sense and in an emotional sense – what got you through it?
So Vanessa, who you can catch crushing the Front Desk, is my incredible little sister. When I told her I wanted to run a marathon before my mastectomy, she didn’t hesitate and said “well it looks like WE are running a marathon even though we have never ran more than 3 miles.”
I created a little blog to share my journey and to help fundraise for our marathon team. When I shared my story, hundreds of people donated. But 6 very special people said “well I believe in you and I have to do this with you.” So the Kayla, who grew up next door (and who I used to babysit) joined my team. I mean, I know you all know Kayla is a boss, but this chick ran a marathon despite just having hip surgery!
Marathon training is grueling, but it’s mostly mental. Self talk is EVERYTHING. Making sure you encourage yourself is key. I used to say “I am stronger than anyone else can see.” “I am a mother f—–! Warrior” haha so self talk helps motivating and endurance.
What got me through 26.2 miles was the sense of support I had. Think about it. 6 friends trained for 18 weeks and flew to Chicago to run 26.2 miles. Hundreds of people donated to Bright Pink and then 20 of my closest friends and family flew to cheer us on. The support I had turned my life’s greatest obstacle into the best damn adventure.
I also have a little something that I’ve carried with me along the way. I’m going to save it as a surprise for everyone on October 29th. I believe it will help everyone regain focus throughout the challenge.
What sets Bright Pink apart from other Breast Cancer organizations?
Bright Pink is the only national nonprofit dedicated to PREVENTION! I’m hopeful for a cure one day, but wouldn’t it be nice to not have anyone you love get diagnosed with this disease?
Cancer is scary, but your health doesn’t have to be! I love that Bright Pink educates and empowers women on how to know their bodies and how to detect when something isn’t normal.
Prevention is a huge thing that no one really talks about. What are some things that we should keep in mind and start doing in order to keep ourselves and our families as knowledgeable as we can be?
Two key things, know your family history and practice breast self-awareness.
Your family breast health history is important on both your maternal and PATERNAL side. Bright Pink has an amazing confidential digital tool to help you navigate your risk.
We are all busy so having a reminder to do monthly self breast checks is so helpful.
Text the word PINK to 59227 and receive cute free monthly text reminders from Bright Pink. Knowing what your breasts feel like at all different times of your menstrual cycle is so important in early self detection!
10K on a rower is tough – mentally and physically. What would you tell people taking on the challenge to keep in mind?
I want to thank everyone who comes to this challenge. For every $25 raised, our community gets to directly provide support to 10 women.
Stay positive with yourself when you find it to be challenging, and then look for me cursing on my rower, haha!
Will we be seeing you on the rowers on Oct 29th?
You know it!
And if you are new to Sweat Fixx or maybe you haven’t had a need to go before, you should come check it out.
My pectoral muscles were stretched through breast reconstruction to hold my lovely implants. So if I can row, you totally will rock a class. Dive in. You will love everything about it.