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Martina Navratilova: Breast Cancer Was My Toughest Opponent

By Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger
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She outplays women half her age on the tennis court.

Her accomplishments include 59 grand slam titles, with a record nine Wimbledon singles championships.

But Martina Navratilova says the toughest opponent of all was cancer.

She was diagnosed with grade three DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) breast cancer earlier this year and underwent a successful lumpectomy to remove the cancerous cells on March 15.

"Throughout my decades-long tennis career, I have faced some really tough opponents across the net – Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, and even the Williams sisters in doubles, “ she said. “What I never anticipated was that my toughest opponent would be off the court: cancer."

CNN International was granted rare access to document Navratilova's treatment and recovery, and shared Navratilova’s story this weekend in "Martina: My Toughest Opponent" http://www.cnn.com/2010/SPORT/tennis/08/05/navratilova/
She decided to tell her story because she wants women to take better care of themselves and get regular mammograms -- not put it off like she had.

When asked if this was a time of forward thinking or reflection, Navratilova said: "I'll think about it, but I'm just thankful that I caught it when I did, that I didn't wait another year and think, Oh, I'll just do that mammogram later. I'll be very meticulous now about going to the doctor and getting those six month check ups and one year check ups. I'm not going to let that lapse again."

Named one of the Top 40 Athletes of All Time by Sports Illustrated, Navratilova hopes to raise of awareness about the importance of preventative health screenings. A long-time advocate of healthy life habits, her advocacy work has including being the Health and Fitness Ambassador for AARP and writing a monthly fitness column for those over age 50: http://www.aarp.org/health/experts/martina/

"The day I was told I had breast cancer was my own personal 9/11,” she said. I was completely shocked and the news literally knocked the wind out of me. This is a huge wakeup call for me and just goes to show no matter how much you watch what you eat or exercise, you just never know. Here I am, the health and fitness ambassador for AARP, speaking to millions each month about staying healthy, and I let my annual checkups fall to the bottom of my to-do list. It's not all about eating right and exercising; preventative steps can make just as much – or in some cases more – of a difference. Getting my mammogram literally saved my life."

She also advises women to work on managing stress levels. In her AARP column she said, “I've been trying to incorporate yoga into my routine for the obvious physical and mental benefits. And I'm working on surrounding myself with people who are positive, healthy influences. I firmly believe that having a good personal support network enhances our immunity and reduces our stress.”

“One of the many lessons I've learned from having survived this experience is not to take any part of life for granted. Every day, I'm thankful to have the health and strength to be able to stay active, contribute to the world, be with my family and friends, and live life to the fullest.”


CNN: Navratilova: My Cancer Battle

EmpowHER Breast Cancer Community: https://www.empowher.com/condition/breast-cancer/definition

EmpowHER Cancer Survivors Group: https://www.empowher.com/groups/cancer-survivors

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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