As the true definition of strength, not even breast cancer could slow down Meleia Knight.
An avid runner, 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 – especially since she just had a clear mammogram one month prior. However, when Knight’s gynecologist referred her to the Margaret West Comprehensive Breast Center for a follow-up ultrasound and mammogram, her anxiety began to settle in.
Being the fitness enthusiast that she is, Knight pushed her recommended biopsy back so she could still compete in the Memphis Runners Off Road Series races she had already registered for. And while those races bought her more time to escape reality, on March 14, 2016, she received the devastating news that no one is ready to hear: she had breast cancer. “I was in complete shock,” said Knight. “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 – and breast specialist – devised a treatment plan that consisted of several rounds of chemotherapy to reduce the tumor to an operable size then followed by radiation.
“My first chemotherapy infusion went well and I ran six miles the following morning,” said Knight. “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. Then, 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. Instead, after each and 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,” said Knight. “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 at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. And, it was Cassy’s fight that inspired Knight to continue to fight on for herself because if Cassy could fight on, she could fight on 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 her husband of 36 years, a mother to her two children, and a grandmother to her six grandchildren, Knight is determined to continue showing them the true meaning of “fight on”!
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. Funds are used for discovery, innovation and advancement in the field of adult cancer research and patient education, care and support.
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 www.WestFightOn.org. Whether you cycle, run, walk or simply cheer on our participants you are showing your support for all those whose lives have been touched by cancer. Fight On!