Leslie de Silva’s life was pretty typical. Her work, husband and two young children, a boy and girl, kept her busy. She enjoyed working out, focusing mostly on keeping her weight down and staying in shape.
In 2014, she went in for some medical testing which showed that she had a benign tumor in her breast that was typically not cause for concern. Her doctor referred her to a surgeon for removal. On May 6, 2014, she had the tumor removed in outpatient surgery. The next afternoon, she received a call from the surgeon.
“She told me I had invasive ductal carcinoma. I was in shock and tried my best to listen to her instructions to see an oncologist as well as come back in to talk about additional surgeries, treatment options, etc. I hung up the phone and all I could do was cry. My first thought was how can I leave my husband without a wife and my kids without a mother?”
The next two weeks were very difficult. Leslie had more surgeries and more testing to determine staging and treatment. She underwent two lumpectomies which were unsuccessful, as well as a sentinel lymph node biopsy that showed the cancer had spread to one lymph node, which indicated stage 2 cancer.
Discussions with her doctor determined that the best course of action was to remove several more lymph nodes during a bilateral mastectomy. She is now in remission from breast cancer and sees her oncologist every four months, her two surgeons once a year and will take Tamoxifen for the next ten years.
“It wasn’t about working out to be thin or to look good anymore. Now, I wanted to be as strong as I could possibly be. I went back to my trainer and slowly started training again. It not only made me stronger physically, but mentally as well. I gained so much confidence as I made progress.”
As Leslie trained and saw other women in the gym participate in powerlifting competitions, she began to consider whether or not that was something she could do.
“I knew I loved lifting weights and challenging myself to lift more. It was such an awesome feeling to realize what I was capable of. I had been to a couple of meets to support other members of our team and was blown away by how fun they were. One day I asked my trainer what he thought of me doing a powerlifting meet. He was very excited and knew all along that it was the right path for me. In my first meet, I won a first place medal.”
Leslie’s goal for the future is to keep lifting, keep getting stronger and keep competing. Her hope is to inspire others to get to the gym and find their potential. Leslie also finds inspiration by participating in ArtBra, a fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Texas.
“During ArtBra, artists from all over make gorgeous, wearable works of art that are auctioned during a real runway show. All of the models are breast cancer survivors and clients of BCRC. I have been fortunate enough to model the last two years. It is the most amazing experience a survivor can be part of. It’s transforming.”
As Leslie moves forward, she offers this advice to others dealing with breast cancer: “I understand the emotional rollercoaster you’re on and, as hard as it is, take it one day at a time. It’s a tough process but lean on the people that love you and let them help.”