“I was in the best shape of my life – while a hidden tumor grew inside me for five years”
A mum in the best shape of her life was stunned when she discovered her body had had a tumor for up to five years – and revealed how she beat cancer to become a bodybuilder.
Single mom Annamarya Scaccia, 40, happened to go to the doctor to check on her health while working on her fitness regimen in July 2020 – and was stunned when her doctor found abnormalities in her blood work.
They advised her to cut down on the protein powders she was taking and cut back on exercise to see if the results changed, but creatine levels in her kidneys also raised a red flag — and an ultrasound found a two-inch one Mass on her left kidney.
The lump was cancerous and, frighteningly, had been growing for up to five years unbeknownst to Ms Scaccia. jam press reports.
“I was scared because I didn’t know if my worst fear would come true — that I wouldn’t be able to see my son grow up,” Ms. Scaccia, who lives in Austin, Texas, told NeedToKnow.online.
Prior to her diagnosis, the communications director was training kickboxers two hours a day, six days a week and hoped to compete in muay thai.
She has focused heavily on her fitness since 2017 after the end of a long-term relationship and ate a high-protein diet to get stronger.
She was fitter than ever — and had no idea anything was seriously wrong.
She said: “There was no sign, or at least I didn’t recognize any sign.
“The cancer was caught because I had an overly vigilant doctor doing her duty of care. She didn’t like the way my creatinine and blood urea nitrogen levels looked, so she wanted to investigate why.
“I’m so grateful she did.”
The doctor’s initial concern eventually led to her diagnosis on September 30, 2020.
Ms. Scaccia saw a urologist within a week who advised her that she would need a nephrectomy (removal of part or all of the kidney) and the surgery was scheduled for October 26, 2020.
Not yet knowing what type of cancer she had or what stage it was, she worried that she would not be there for the future of her seven-year-old son Kelly.
She said: “He was afraid of losing me and clinging to me wherever we went.
“I was afraid the cancer would be advanced, I wouldn’t see it grow up.”
Surgery revealed she had stage 1 chromophobic renal cell carcinoma, a slow-growing, rare form of kidney cancer that affects about 5 percent of cases.
Her doctors believe she lived with it for up to five years without knowing it.
Ms Scaccia claims doctors previously dismissed concerns and did not investigate further, leaving her both “surprised and angry” at the diagnosis.
Luckily, the surgery was successful and Ms Scaccia didn’t need any further treatment, allowing her to get back to focusing on her fitness journey six months into her recovery, but this time with a twist – to focus on becoming a bodybuilder.
Ms Scaccia said: “I started exercising again, slowly starting with walks, then boot camp classes with bodyweight exercises and resistance bands and started lifting weights in April 2021.
“Kickboxing was no longer an option for me – at least not competitive training. I just can’t risk an opponent kicking my right side and damaging my right kidney.
“But I love being strong and I wanted to get stronger, so I knew lifting weights was the perfect way to do it.
“After nine months of training, I competed in my first natural bodybuilding show as a figure athlete in November 2021.”
Ms Scaccia spent up to three hours a day in the gym six days a week to keep her body in tip-top shape.
While she competed in two shows in November 2022, Ms. Scaccia is now taking a break from competing.
She said: “I’ve spent the last two years proving something to other people – that my cancer didn’t kill me, that my cancer didn’t rob me of fitness, that I am more than my diagnosis.
“But my body was clearly telling me something I didn’t want to listen to — that I needed a break, I needed to focus on myself and deal with all these emotions I was running from.
“I’d love to start competing again sometime in late 2024 but for now I’m going to put all my energy into myself, into healing, into living for myself so I can come back even stronger.”
She now works as an ambassador for the Kidney Cancer Association and as a certified fitness and nutrition coach, helping other kidney cancer survivors and people with kidney problems who want to start weightlifting
Ms Scaccia said: “I want to change the narrative. I want to make fitness fit for people like me who navigate the gray area of nutrition.
“I want to open up the world of natural bodybuilding and make it more inclusive and welcoming for people like me. Our muscle gains may not be as rapid as other people who can pack the protein, but we’re gaining weight and we’re getting strong.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/mother-hidden-tumor-fitness-bodybuilder-b2302373.html “I was in the best shape of my life – while a hidden tumor grew inside me for five years”