She’s proof that anything is possible!
A breast cancer survivor returned to bodybuilding competitions, winning multiple medals and placing first, UChicago Medicine reports.
Erica Langley was actively pursuing her dream of becoming a competitive bodybuilder when a surprise breast cancer diagnosis halted her plans. She discovered the lump in her breast after a workout in 2018, thinking she had just pulled a muscle. When it didn’t go away, a local health clinic examined her, confirming the detection of HER2-positive cancer in two locations in her left breast.
Since she was only in her late 30s, the team at UChicago Medicine created an aggressive and comprehensive treatment plan for Langley, also referring her for genetic testing to see if she had an inherited mutation that put her at risk for cancer.
“When a young woman gets breast cancer, we always want to ask why. For Erica, having cancer at a young age signaled that she needed to undergo genetic testing. And it turns out, she had a well-known mutation that puts her at higher risk for breast cancer and other cancers, said Olwen Hahn, MD, a Chicago Medicine oncologist.
After several screening tests to confirm there were no other cancer detections. They created a plan to ensure future fertility options; Langley underwent 20 weeks of chemotherapy, followed by a double mastectomy in April 2019, intravenous targeted therapy, and reconstructive surgery on both breasts. In November 2020, she finally returned to the gym to resume bodybuilding training, 50 pounds heavier and feeling overwhelmed and weakened by the treatments.
“Mentally, I still really wanted to do this, but my body was struggling. After the first few workouts, I didn’t think I’d ever be competition-ready. So, I made up my mind that I was going to do this. I decided I wasn’t just going to survive cancer; I was going to thrive,” said Langley.
With the support of her trainer, Daniel “Bolo” Young, and the guidance of her doctors, ensuring none of her natural supplements interfered with her cancer medication, Langley was able to soldier on. In May 2021, she entered two bodybuilding competitions, winning multiple medals and placing first in one of the categories.
“She showed courage and resilience, both mentally and physically,” said Dr. Hahn.
“She knew she was going to get there, even if the journey was going to be difficult. The most important thing is that her cancer is treated and that she’s at decreased risk for another cancer. But she worked really hard to be even better than she was when she started this journey,” reconstructive surgeon, Rebecca Garza, MD, added.
Langley credited her parents, fiance, and his parents with supporting her throughout the journey.
“She shows that no matter what you’re going through if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish it,” said Bolo.
Photo Courtesy of Erica Langley/UChicago Medicine