28 March, 2024

There are over 55,000 breast cancer diagnoses every single year, and whilst every diagnosis is life-changing, they are not all life-ending. When mother-of-two Gemma Isaacs was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, positive representation of breast cancer survivors was few and far between.  

Since recovering from breast cancer, Gemma has embarked on a full-time career as a personal trainer to help people achieve their fitness and nutrition goals. Breast Cancer UK sat down with the wellness expert to discuss the importance of engaging in breast cancer conversations that aren’t solely centred around treatment. 

“I was diagnosed in my early 30s”

Many things came as a shock to me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my early 30s. Surprisingly, the diagnosis was one of the most predictable things about the experience. My dad and members of his family were carriers of the BRAC1 gene mutation. This meant that my risk of developing breast cancer was significantly higher than the average person.  

“The lack of information about maintaining a healthy lifestyle caught me off guard the most. I was told which pills to take, when to take them, and the dates of all of my appointments. The information that wasn’t related to medicine was little to non-existent. 

“I am grateful to all the doctors who played a part in my recovery. This isn’t to disparage anyone, but there’s a massive disconnect between our healthcare system and subjects like prevention and recovery.  

“They told me to expect fatigue and recommended resting a lot. This advice is fine for a 60 or 70-year-old, but for someone like me who was physically able and had a newborn, sitting still wasn’t practical or possible. I had to do all the research, especially regarding food and nutrition. 

“The media didn’t help much either. All of the depictions of breast cancer in the news, social media, and on television showcased the most tragic outcomes. This is a reality, but there needs to be a light shone on the people whose stories turn out differently.

“There aren’t enough positive breast cancer stories in the media”

“As someone who went through breast cancer, I can speak to the experience of not being able to look around and see any positive representation. Naturally, you internalise these things. It can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy where you see yourself in someone else’s struggle and accept their fate as your own. 

“There aren’t enough stories of people reclaiming ownership of their minds and bodies. Whether through healthy eating, exercise, or maintaining normality for themselves as best as possible. The desire to correct this narrative put a battery in my back to leave my job in advertising. I originally qualified to become a personal trainer in 2015. Still, it was only after surviving breast cancer that I found the courage to pursue a full-time career as a personal trainer. 

“I have always enjoyed exercising and working out, and in the last few years, it has become an even more significant part of my life, but I wouldn’t have gotten to this point if I had listened to all of the doubters.   

“I remember being told that I might never be as physically fit as I was before my diagnosis. This only spurred me on to recover faster. Six weeks after finishing my treatment, I ran a marathon. No one believed I could do this, but I believed in myself. My experience with breast cancer has inspired my approach to personal training.  

“There is no limit to what you achieve”

“This role has allowed me to help people connect to the best version of themselves through building healthy eating habits and developing exercise routines that they can incorporate into their daily lives. I love motivating people and introducing them to strength training, boxing, and core exercises. 

“My clients are people from all walks of life. It can be CEOs in stressful corporate environments or mothers returning to work after maternity leave. I see myself in the people I help. Alongside my friend and business partner, Nadiva, I organise retreats to help people on their health and wellness journeys. Next year, we’ll host retreats across the UK and some abroad in Spain and France. 

“There is no limit to what any of us can achieve. Even with a breast cancer diagnosis, our possibilities for success are endless.” 

If you were inspired by Gemma’ breast cancer conversations and story and would like to find out more about improving your health, check out this Instagram page.

Start your breast cancer prevention journey today by taking our prevention quiz.

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