Bazooka Jo is Back!

God is so incredibly faithful.

This past Saturday I competed in my first powerlifting meet in about two years. Shortly after my last competition we got the news about Jess being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. I believed God would heal her miraculously, but I was devastated. I absolutely love working out, but every time I worked out I struggled to make it through.

My strength declined over the weeks and months that followed. I would hear a song that would make me think of my sweet twin and I would start to crumble. I also felt guilty because I felt like any free time I had should be devoted to taking care of Jess. I would not rest until she was better.

Matt was my rock and encouraged me to take time for myself. Later that year I found out that I tested positive for the BRCA genetic mutation that put me at near 100% risk of getting breast cancer. My amazing surgeon told me it was not a matter of if, but when. I did not want to have to battle this disease. I also wanted to be brave like my twin sister Jess and my sister Jenna Palfrey.

I remember talking to the surgeons and saying that I was concerned about two things. Number one was being healthy and number two was being able to go back to powerlifting. They said they thought I could lift weights afterward, but who knows how my body would respond after a prophylactic double mastectomy.

When the doctors first told us that Jess was going to have a double mastectomy I nearly fainted. I remember thinking there was no way I could handle that. Months later I had the surgery and was shocked at how much easier it was than I expected. God provided in ways I could not have imagined. God gave me brave sisters to help me know what to do, a loving husband who went above and beyond what I needed and I believe I had the best surgeons you can find. I was told it would be a very long time before I could even do a push up.

The first time I lifted five pounds above my head my arms shook violently and my chest muscles ached like nothing I had ever known before. Week after week I tried a little more weight in order to get my strength back. One day while at the gym I was telling a dear friend that I was trying to get back to competing again, but that I had plateaued. She told me that I should dedicate my training to Jess. That day I gave myself a brutal workout. I decided to do this for Jess. Every time I go to lift a heavy weight I say “Jess Fights Back!” Jess even said that if I did not sign up for a competition she would not take her supplements!  

After a few months of completely starting over with weight training I went from lifting the bar to being able to deadlift over 300 pounds and over 170 raw on the bench press. After my last deadlift attempt at the meet Matt ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug. With tears in his eyes he told me he was so proud. To God be the glory! Powerlifting appears to be an individual sport, but it actually takes a team. I could not do this without God, Matt, my family, and Suzanne Sioux-z Hartwig-Gary(Best coach ever). With God all things are possible.

170 lb Bench Press

305 lb Deadlift

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