Stacy Andrews, 42, knew something was wrong.
Her symptoms, which included hair and weight loss, night sweats and no menstrual cycle, led to a series of medical tests and consultations and, finally, a diagnosis.
On Nov. 1, 2010, Andrews was told she had prolactinoma, a benign but inoperable tumor sitting on her pituitary gland. “We can’t get rid of it,” Andrews remembers her doctor telling her, “but you can take meds to shrink it to minimize the problems it is causing you.”
Andrews, a nurse, was both relieved and dismayed by the diagnosis.
“It was very scary,” she says, “but also good to know what was wrong and to have a plan for fixing it.”
The medications did shrink the tumor, but they came with several unpleasant side effects, such as dizziness and diarrhea. Andrews continued with the medications for 18 months and tried to go about her life despite the side effects.
In January 2012, her doctor ordered an MRI to see if the tumor had shrunk enough to allow Andrews to take a break from the medicines she was taking to reduce it.
When he called her that night, she expected the worst.
“No doctor calls his patient at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday night,” Andrews says. “I thought, ‘It must be bad news.’ ”
She was wrong. Her doctor called to tell her that the tumor had not only shrunk, but it was gone. There was no sign of it and no scientific explanation for its disappearance.
Andrews’ new clean bill of health, coinciding with the start of the new year, translated into a desire to “do something different.” She had already met her life’s goals of becoming a wife, mother and nurse, and she wanted to set a new goal for herself.
She began working out and pursuing a rigorous strength-training program at the Siskey YMCA, where she was approached by Mark Brown, a personal trainer at MBS (Mind, Body & Soul) Fitness.
“He worked on me for months,” Andrews recalls, “telling me about these bodybuilding competitions and shows, but it is not my personality to put on a bikini and prance around on stage.” Andrews also hesitated because she would need to commit to a strict workout regimen and diet.
She finally relented, agreeing to train with Brown for a competition in April.
“Life is short,” she recalls thinking. “I’m going to do it.”
For the next three months, Andrews put in serious time at the gym, doing a minimum of one hour of cardio and one hour of free weights each day. Under Brown’s guidance, each day’s workout was broken down into a particular muscle group, with one day focused on nothing but her back, another on her shoulders, another on the front of her legs, and so on.
She also committed to cutting out all alcohol and a diet that featured high proteins, carbs and healthy fats to “pull as much fat and excess water out of your body while feeding your muscles to they can grow and repair.” She often made different meals for her husband, Jeff, 43, and daughters Payton, 14, and Taylor, 11.
She also worked on poses and on training her mind as well as her body.
“My goal is to just have the courage to get up on the stage,” she told Brown shortly before the competition. He told her judges can pick up on lack of confidence. “Your goal has to be to win,” he said.
Andrews competed in two categories at the NPC (National Physique Committee) Charlotte Cup, held at the Blake Hotel in uptown Charlotte in April. She took 3rd place in the Masters 40 category, but in the Juniors division (for all novice competitors, regardless of age), Andrews would be standing next to 20-year-olds. “I was dreading it,” Andrews says.
But she ended up coming in first.
“My girls are so proud,” she says, adding that she is eager to compete again.
She sees her success as proof that you never know what’s around the next corner.
“I had a medical problem I thought I’d have to deal with my entire life,” she says. “Two years later, I’m cured and I’m in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in.”
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Do you have a story idea for Katya? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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