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Keeping busy helps woman fight breast cancer

October 3, 2018

Get up, get out and get on.

That’s Mia Trevillion-Barney’s advice to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. It works. That’s what she followed after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. In remission, she’s teaching first- and second-graders, working on a master’s degree in education, looking forward to her son’s graduation from college in December and planning to return as a dance instructor next year. It wasn’t cancer that stopped her dance instruction but Harvey and its floodwaters which hit the school.

An elementary teacher for about a dozen years, she has been teaching dance and fitness for more than 30 years.

“I was and still am a dancer,” said the 50-year-old, who said she never got sick and couldn’t even imagine herself sitting for three hours in a chemo lab.

The Houston Chronicle featured her in 2015 leading a GrooveBounceFun fitness class with Kangoo jumping boots and she was included on a list of top fitness trainers having taught pilates, spin, Kangu jump and other dances. Injuring her knee in a car accident, she started teaching GrooveBounceFun in 2013 after warnings from her doctor to scale back.

But instead of knee replacement surgery, Trevillion-Barney had a lumpectomy in addition to chemo and radiation. With a family history of cancer, she made sure she had regular well woman exams. It was during one of those exams that technicians discovered a lump. Having had cysts before she said she wasn’t too alarmed. Going back for a mammogram, she became extremely sick as a cyst burst and she was hospitalized for four days. When she went back for a mammogram, the diagnosis was stage 2 triple negative breast cancer, one of the most difficult types of cancer to treat.

She changed her eating and became a vegan.

“I sat down with my doctor to come up with a plan to allow me to continue to teach class as I went through chemo. My doctor said, ‘You’re not sick. You might have cancer, but you’re not sick.’”

Her medical oncologist is Dr. Michelina Cairo. Her breast surgeon is Dr. Liz Lee. She was treated at Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-Memorial City.

Because she had achieved a high level of fitness through her dancing and fitness classes, Trevillion-Barney said she was able to continue to teach during 16 rounds of chemo and 32 rounds of radiation. For both treatments, she’s participating in 10-year medical trials because there’s a lot of research that needs to be done on triple negative breast cancer, she said. A battle with sepsis raised her white blood count to a high level and she thinks that helped fight the cancer and opened her eyes to the possibility of immune therapy fighting breast cancer.

Trevillion-Barney, a Spring area resident, didn’t share her story on social media but did attend hospital support groups.

“I wanted to continue to teach,” she said. “There were a lot of things I wanted to continue to do. I did everything I wanted to do. It was important to maintain the normalcy of my life. A spiritual base was very important to me.”

Because cancer had spread to some lymph nodes, her surgery included removal of some nodes which she said affected the range of motion in her arm. To counteract that loss, she had physical therapy at the TIRR Memorial Hermann outpatient facility.

“Going to TIRR was very important,” she said. “I have a physical fitness lifestyle and I wanted to maintain it afterwards.”

Always busy — leaving and coming home when it was dark — Trevillion-Barney said she didn’t know neighbors on either side of the house where she’s lived for 10 years. She took some time off for her.

“I didn’t realize how much time I didn’t spent with Mia.” Her diagnosis gave her time. “You do get sick and do get tired. Part of it is you really don’t want to give into it. I don’t want cancer to be the victor in my situation.”

She tells other breast cancer patients to be engaged in their treatment.

“I say ‘don’t write your obituary.’ Spend more time thinking of living. Death will take care of itself. I found out what was important in my life. I really want to enjoy and savor the moment instead of passing through.”

karen.zurawski@chron.com

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