As an avid runner, 54-year-old MELEIA KNIGHT knows the importance of being proactive about your health. So, when she felt a small knot in her breast, she assumed it was merely a cyst having just had a clear mammogram a month prior. However, when Knight’s gynecologist referred her to the Margaret West Comprehensive Breast Center for a follow-up ultrasound and mammogram, anxiety began to settle in.
Being the fitness enthusiast she is, Knight pushed her recommended biopsy back so she could still compete in the Memphis Runners Off Road Series she had already registered for. And while those races bought her more time to escape reality, on March 14 last year, she received the devastating news no one is ready to hear: she had breast cancer.
“I was in complete shock,” Meleia says. “No one in my family had ever had breast cancer, and I was fully convinced it was merely a cyst.” Knight was referred to Richard Fine, MD, FACS, a breast surgeon at West Cancer Center, who diagnosed her with HER2-positive Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. Her aggressive type of cancer required an aggressive and individualized treatment plan. In collaboration with Dr. Fine, Lee Schwartzberg, MD, FACP, a Medical Oncologist and Hematologist at West Cancer Center, who is also a breast specialist, devised a treatment plan consisting of several rounds of chemotherapy to reduce the tumor to an operable size, followed by radiation.
“My first chemotherapy infusion went well, and I ran six miles the following morning,” says Meleia. “However, with each infusion treatment, I felt weaker and weaker. My speed slowly decreased over time, followed by my distance, and eventually I only had the strength to walk. But I walked every day.”
In June of 2016, Knight underwent surgery to remove the lesion and two lymph nodes. Under the care of Michael Farmer, MD, a radiation oncologist at West Cancer Center, she began six weeks of radiation therapy. And while her treatment was draining—in every form of the word—she never stopped her active lifestyle. After every appointment, Knight changed into her running attire and headed to the Greenline at Shelby Farms Park.
“I set a goal to increase my speed and distance until I was able to run again,” she says. “And every day, my sister, my running family, and my Bootcamp Fusion family were with me—every step of the way.“
In December, Knight completed a 10K in honor of her niece, Cassy, who was also undergoing cancer treatment. It was Cassy’s fight that inspired Meleia to continue to fight on for herself. If Cassy could fight on, she could too.
Knight completed her last infusion treatment in March of 2017 and has returned to running three times a week, Fusion Bootcamp twice a week, and regular yoga to get back her old strength. A wife to a husband of 36 years, a mother to two children, and a grandmother to six grandchildren, Meleia is determined to continue showing her family the true meaning of “fight on!”
Melia Knight is running in the West Fight On Cycle.Run.Walk on Sept 16.
She will be running at West Fight On: Cycle.Run.Walk. on September 16, 2017 at Shelby Farms Park in celebration of her cancer journey and all she’s overcome. West Fight On: Cycle.Run.Walk. raises funds for the University of Tennessee/West Institute for Cancer Research, the non-profit fundraising arm of West Cancer Center. Funds are used for discovery, innovation, and advancement in the field of adult cancer research and patient education, care, and support.
You can join Meleia and more than 2,000 others from the Mid-South in the fight against cancer by registering for West Fight On: Cycle.Run.Walk. at http://www.WestFightOn.org. Whether you cycle, run, walk, or simply cheer on participants, you are showing your support for all those whose lives have been touched by cancer. Fight On!
By Jordan Walker