Whitney Bozzer, CrossFit Athlete and Barbells for Boobs Ambassador
Whitney Bozzer was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age twenty. Ten years later, she is still fighting after being diagnosed for the fifth time. There was a time in Whitney’s life when she did not believe that sharing her story mattered. However, when Whitney discovered Barbells for Boobs (BFB) last year at her local CrossFit Affiliate, everything changed.
“On the inside cancer feels like an emptiness. You feel alone. Cancer makes me feel abnormal and out of place. CrossFit kept me going.”
Whitney has found a family at Barbells for Boobs and is one of the organizations Pro Advocates. This position has given her support, friendship, and the opportunity to share her story and inspire others with her passion and courage.
“Maybe what I’ve had to go through can help other people. That’s why I want to share my story.”
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Fashletics: Whitney, what is you history with breast cancer from diagnosis to present day?
Whitney: I was first diagnosed in stage one, two days before my twenty first birthday. I was concerned with what I felt in the shower. I went to the doctor to get it checked out and hopefully alleviate my worries. I was told I was fine, I'm an athlete and in great shape and there's nothing to worry about. I was told to worry about this around the age of 40 as that is the typical age this might start to develop. I had no family history that I was aware of. Six months later, I was diagnosed after I had felt the lump change shape and size. It was just a feeling I had that something wasn't right when I felt it again.
At that time, it was much more rare for a woman my age to experience breast cancer and treatment was not as advanced as it is today.
I've been diagnosed five times over the past ten years. I guess you could say I'm fortunate that the cancer has been caught in stage 0 (DCIS) each time. It's been a long journey of radiation, cryotherapy, clinical trials and literally dozens of surgeries.
It's not over yet, but I always stay positive.
F: How did you become associated with Barbells for Boobs?
W: One of the standards in most Crossfit gyms in the month of October is the community doing a workout called, "Grace". I did this at my local box last October and became familiar with Barbells for Boobs. My boyfriend thought I'd be a perfect representative of the organization. He worked for months to contact them, eventually resulting in a meeting with Z (founder, Zionna Hanson), last January in Boston. We hit it off over lunch and I knew I wanted to be as involved with the organization as possible.
F. What does it mean to be a BFB Pro Advocate?
W: I've been through this at such a young age and there have been so many times I felt very alone. My goal is to positively influence young women to take this seriously, be aware it can happen to anyone. Yet so often, with breast cancer we hear about "survival".
I want to create a message of living - not just surviving. Living a healthy, full life. Having the ability to encourage, support and teach are a big part of the reason I wanted to share my story through Barbells For Boobs and how I live my life with cancer.
F: What does living a healthy life (vs. surviving) mean to you?
W: I control what I am able to control. A healthy life is not only the tangible, typical things that come to mind such as proper eating, sleeping, working out and taking pride in a hard day's work. I believe it's also about the people you surround yourself with contributing to a positive environment and living simply.
I am not someone who has a lot of "wants" or material possessions, I limit social media and time in front of a screen (unless it's football season). I try to create an environment that doesn't contribute to building stress. You only have one life...make the most of it.
F: What type of support has BFB provided throughout your battle with breast cancer?
W: It's hard to put into words. I feel that everyone in the organization has been so personally connected to breast cancer and are so aligned in the goals of Barbells For Boobs that they have become a family to me. Not just those that are employed by Barbells For Boobs, but the friends I've made around the country that I would never have met, the women going through cancer I would never have been able to talk to. The people have made such a difference in my life over the past year.
F: How has being a part of the CrossFit community in general helped you cope?
W: Working out and living a healthy lifestyle has always been important to me since I was a kid. I've always been competitive and athletic. I began Crossfit in January of 2014 and knew immediately it was for me. The closest people in my life right now, I've met through Crossfit. Without Crossfit there wouldn't be Barbells For Boobs either. I love the competitive nature of the classes, learning new skills.
I've gotten stronger during treatment through Crossfit and it provides a sanctuary each day that I look forward to.
F: Talk a little about your mindset throughout your battle - the challenges, how you are able to overcome them, what you do on a regular basis to keep your mind and body strong and resilient…
W: I was alone during cancer. I had no immediate family. I had no choice other than to get to work each day and take care of myself. The mentality among most people is that I should rest and take it easy, stay home, don't work, relax, and so on. Not only did I not have that option being on my own, I have always needed the mental space associated with the gym. I've always thought it very important to control whatever I could since cancer was completely out of my control. So, I focused on eating as clean as I could, sleeping and keeping a healthy schedule. I control what I can control.
F: What advice or words of encouragement would you give to other women and men fighting breast cancer?
W: I feel it's crucial to maintain as much of a normal life as possible and take advantage of your time. Your journey is not only about surviving and getting through it.
Train yourself to believe in living your life.
Be diligent about your health and surround yourself with the people you can trust to care about your wellbeing and benefit you especially during such a hard time in life.
F: What has been the most powerful form of support you have received from either an individual or a community?
W: I was alone for so long over the past ten years of treatment. But I have made some of the best friends of my life over the last year or two who have unconditionally supported me. Some I've met through Barbells For Boobs, and a few others because I started Crossfit. I am so thankful for them.
It's so easy, so frequently, for all of us to fall into that trap of complaining about small things and having it impact our days way too much. I wish sometimes that we could all remember how lucky we are and to appreciate the days we have. I've been through a lot with my health and I've been alone since a young age, but I've never chosen to give up or to let those hard times take over my mindset.
Those who know me know I've come to live by the slogan, "Never Quit". I take this very seriously and want to lead by example at my work, at the gym, or even during treatment. I hope I can positively impact peoples' thoughts to recognize this is a choice. Never Quit - no matter what life brings you.
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For more information on how to support Barbells for Boobs and individuals like Whitney, please visit BarbellsforBoobs.com.
Fashletics is raising funds for Barbells for Boobs with our “Stronger Together” bracelet. For each bracelet sold, Fashletics will donate $15 to Barbells for Boobs to help detect potentially life threatening breast cancer occurrences.
The words “Stronger Together” honor the incredible individuals and community that come together in support of the Barbells for Boobs mission and those fighting breast cancer. Click here to shop and support.