The Unstoppable Leslie Daniel

Breasts are as individual as fingerprints, and after years of mammograms Leslie Daniel knew hers were dense and fibrocystic. Though she had felt a lump on her chest in the summer of 2016, she didn’t think much of it until her annual physical that fall. Her OB-GYN, Dr. Paul Neblett, ordered an ultrasound, which resulted in a biopsy just a week later.

Leslie says, “It was November 17 around noon I got a call saying I had cancer. It was IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma).” She already dealt with a lot that year—bronchitis and the passing of her mother—so this diagnosis was not the first test of her faith or her strength.

At 46 years old, Leslie is fitter than many. Before her diagnosis, she consistently worked out five days a week and ate healthfully, which hasn’t changed since her surgery or recovery.

“I really believe my diet and working out so consistently helped me heal faster.”

“I was so fortunate we caught my cancer early because I didn’t have to have radiation or chemo. My faith was strong and my workouts helped me keep a positive mindset,” she says. Dr. Alyssa Throckmorton, her surgical oncologist, recommended a mastectomy and reconstruction.

Three days a week at Orange Theory and twice a week a French Riviera kept Leslie busy but also strong for her recovery. Her gym friends became her support system. “The Orange Theory team surprised me and wore pink one day. I worked out until the day of my surgery, and it helped me heal so much more quickly.”

For six weeks after her mastectomy, she couldn’t do her normal exercise, so she took long walks along the river near her home in Harbor Town on Mud Island. “I really believe my diet and working out so consistently helped me heal faster.” When she had her reconstructive surgery the following spring, she returned to walking while she healed.

Leslie knew well the impact exercise had on surgical recovery from her husband’s experience. The year prior to her diagnosis, in 2015, her husband had a heart transplant. “Walking every day helped him heal. That motivated me to walk as well,” she says.

She and her husband support each other in maintaining their healthy lifestyle. They’re committed to eating organic, and Leslie removed beef and pork from her diet to eat clean. Just three weeks after her reconstructive surgery, they rode together in the Mid-South Transplant Foundation Ride for Life, a 25-mile course. Leslie says, “His new 21-year-old heart keeps me young. I’m just trying to keep up with him.”

By Robin Beaudoin. Photo by Tindall Stephens.

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