Geneva Kostashen (left) with Beach City Crossfit coach Cody Crane during a recent workout at the facility in Penticton on Skaha Lake. Kristi Patton/Western News

Exercising her right to fight

Thinking inside the box helped push Geneva Kostashen through cancer treatment

Going to the gym has its obvious health benefits, but for Geneva Kostashen it is so much more.

“I like to say it saved my life.”

It was almost one year ago she was getting ready to go to Beach City Crossfit for a workout when she felt a lump in her left breast. By the time she made it to the gym she was in tears and being comforted by her fellow Crossfit partners that she had met just six months prior.

“I just knew. I knew something was wrong. I was hoping in the back of my head it was a cyst, but my stomach said something else,” she said.

Not having a family doctor, Kostashen headed to the walk-in clinic the next day and within two weeks she had undergone a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. As she said, “they don’t mess around with these things.” She trudged on over the next few months with stage 2, grade 3 breast cancer. It had gone into one of her lymph nodes. But she continued to lean on Crossfit to keep her mind clear until her surgery in January, pushed slightly back so she could compete at the South Okanagan Valley Throwdown event at the South Okanagan Events Centre. By then, her Crossfit team had become like family.

Related: Throwdown in Penticton wraps up

Beach City Crossfit team members at the Okanagan Valley Throwdown with special shirts on to honour their teammate.
Submitted photo

“It was awesome. Everyone made Beach City Crossfit shirts with the pink ribbon and hope on the back. It was really cool to see that support.”

Four weeks later after having her nodes dissected, chemotherapy followed. Still Beach City is the first place she wanted to be.

“I kept working out and going to work. One oncologist said it was OK to continue working out as long as I promised not to lift weights, another said absolutely no way. But, I kept going,” said Kostashen. “It was so important to me to keep my regular life. I think if you don’t then you are letting cancer take over.”

Her Crossfit teammates agree.

“Absolutely. She is a powerhouse. Nothing stopped her. She was running in sand in 35 C weather, showing up three or four days a week and I think that working out not only helped her physically, but mentally. She was surrounded by the crew at the gym to help her stay positive. That is a really big part of healing, staying positive,” said her friend and fellow Crossfit member Jen Levesque.

Related: Throwdown has good first day

Levesque is no stranger to the battle against cancer. Her daughter, Myla, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma and went through chemotherapy treatments in February of 2015. Her latest scans show no evidence of disease. Kostashen’s fight also inspires them.

“I see so much strength in her and determination to kick cancer’s butt. I could tell something was wrong that day she walked into the gym almost a year ago, but she always stayed positive and I think the time she spent with the gym crew, even thought the doctors didn’t really want her to be doing that, and the laughs and jokes really helped pull her through,” said Levesque.

Geneva Kostashen recently finished chemotherapy and radiation treatment for breast cancer. She believes continuing to live her regularly daily life while undergoing breast cancer treatment helped her get through it.
Kristi Patton/Western News

Once every three weeks Kostashen continued chemotherapy until it wrapped on July 10. She had five weeks off and then started radiation for a month — wrapping that up just this past September.

“Everything just went by so fast, sometimes I sit back and say ‘woah, I have been through a lot.’ I was lucky I never got really sick. I had such a great support group between my family, my friends, the people I workout with who have become like family,” said Kostashen.

As a hairdresser by trade, one of the hardest parts was when her hair started falling out from treatment.

“I lost my eyebrows, my eyelashes, my hair. I didn’t want people looking at me like I am a cancer victim. I decided to embrace it. I think you are so busy processing everything at the moment you don’t want people coming up and asking you a bunch of questions. By the end, I didn’t care who knew. Obviously people know because I am bald, but I wanted people to ask me so I can bring awareness,” she said.

Kostashen, looking back almost a year after she was diagnosed, wanted to share a few important words.

“First, make sure you are getting a regular mammogram. I also just really want to say I am amazed by our community and the support people offer. There were fundraising events people held and slo pitch tournaments raising money, and I just am really thankful for it.”

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