31 Days of Impact – Day 8, Cat Brennan
The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.
CAT BRENNAN, PITTSBURGH, PA – Breast Cancer Survivor, “Party in Pink” Zumba Fitness Instructor
“My mission is to share our story, and educate women and men on the importance of listening to your body. You are your best advocate.”
“I am constantly educating people and doing anything I can to assist in the fight against breast cancer. I was lucky, and I want to help others experience my good fortune.”
“I want to continue to grow the ’Party in Pink’ movement by recruiting more Zumba enthusiasts who can share their respective stories and inspire others to groove for the cause.”
It was 1998 when I began having severe breast pain. I went in for a mammogram, although the tissue was so dense they could not see anything. I was tested for the Breast Cancer BRCA gene mutation through blood work, but I was ruled negative. Because no one in my family had been diagnosed with breast cancer to this point, I chose to live with the pain until I could decide my next move.
The following year, my mother, Susanna Howard Antis, was diagnosed with stage IV acute Inflammatory Breast Cancer. My mom fought hard but unfortunately lost her battle in February 2000. She knew about my breast pain, and before she died I promised her I would go get checked again. With the history of breast cancer now in my family, doctors recommended that to relieve my pain and reduce my risk of cancer I undergo a mastectomy, which I eventually did.
The next month, I went for my followup with the plastic surgeon, and it is a day I will never forget: My doctor told me that the biopsy revealed Stage 0 Atypical Hyperplasic cells in the ducts of my right breast (DCIS). I nearly went into to shock: CANCER? The mastectomies turned out to be the reason I got my life back—before I even knew it had the potential to be in jeopardy. I went through no cancer treatment and went into what is known as survivor guilt: Why did I get off so easy when others are tormented with radiation and chemo?
I dealt with the news by not telling anyone, until I discovered Zumba Fitness in 2006. After only one Zumba class, I was hooked – it was the first exercise I could do after my mastectomies and reconstruction. I became licensed to teach in April 2007 and loved every minute of it. As a Zumba instructor, I began to see how much the classes touched lives and decided I needed to use the program to help others like it helped me.
I called the Pittsburgh Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and was able to organize a “Zumbathon” event in October 2008. Zumbathon events—Zumba classes for charity—are the foundation of Fitness’ “Party in Pink” movement that raises funds for Susan G. Komen and its global nonprofit partners by celebrating the joy of giving through dance, fitness, friendship and love.
Despite only having a few weeks to pull it together, we had 85 participants and raised more than $1,600 in our first event! I then became involved with Zumba Fitness’ national efforts and have been organizing Zumbathon events ever since and have raised nearly $20,000 for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This October’s Zumbathon event will mark my fifth year of hosting our “Celebration of Life” event—it’s amazing how this initiative has grown through the efforts of our Zumba family and Komen together.
I am constantly educating people and doing anything I can to assist in the fight against breast cancer. I want to continue to grow the “Party in Pink” movement by recruiting more Zumba enthusiasts who can share their respective stories and inspire others to groove for the cause. Before she passed, I told my mother she would never be forgotten. I now am very aware that my mission is to share our story, and educate women and men on the importance of listening to your body. You are your best advocate.
Read other impact stories here.
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.