One in eight U.S. women will get breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Jaclyn Alterwein knew that statistic, but she never paid much attention to it, writing it off as an exaggeration.
Then, she learned its truth all too well – breast cancer rocked her world in more ways than she could have ever prepared for.
It began when her mother went in for an annual mammogram at 3 p.m. At 4:45 p.m., Alterwein received a phone call that her mother had breast cancer.
She saw her mother through about a year and a half of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and when her mother was finally recovering, Alterwein got more bad news.
One of her best friends received a diagnosis of DCIS breast cancer at the young age of 40 – just after having very first mammogram.
Again, Alterwein entered the fight, holding her friend’s hand through doctor’s appointments and biopsies. But just as Alterwein’s friend was coming out of it, another close friend received a re-diagnosis of DCIS breast cancer. Without missing a beat, Alterwein put her pink warrior gear back on.
Using her platform as a fitness instructor, Alterwein began encouraging young women to start doing self-examinations and calling on all women to keep up with their annual mammograms. Soon after, she discovered CycleBar and became an instructor in Montvale, and later at Montclair’s location on 656 Bloomfield Avenue. That’s where she continued spreading her message by promoting the hashtag #AnnualMammosSaveLives and building a community of pink sisters.
“It’s really scary to go for a mammogram, but it’s OK to be scared,” Alterwein said. “Courage is what it takes to actually go and pick up the phone, make the call and schedule the appointment.”
Just two months after discovering CycleBar, Alterwein took her own advice and got her annual mammogram — that’s when she received “the biggest sucker punch to the gut.”
At age 46, Alterwein was diagnosed with DCIS breast cancer.
“In that moment, I knew what the treatment was, I knew what I was going to do and I just had to wrap my head around it,” Alterwein said, equipped with the knowledge of seeing her two friends go through the same type of cancer. “We started scheduling my surgery right there.”
Originally planning on undergoing a lumpectomy, Alterwein learned more about her risks and decided to opt for a double mastectomy, which she underwent on April 19 of 2017.
At her seven-day postoperative appointment, Alterwein’s sister was downstairs getting a mammogram. The next week, Alterwein’s sister’s diagnosis came back – DCIS breast cancer.
“I’ve always believed everything happens for a reason,” Alterwein said, noting that CycleBar came into her life just two months before her own diagnosis. “Little did I know how much I would rely on not only my role as an instructor, but riding with the instructors for my own therapy, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.”
Alterwein had to be off the bike several times last year during the multiple biopsies leading up to her diagnosis and while she was recovering from surgery. When she got back on the bike, she could only ride at half the speed she was used to.
But about a year and a half later, she’s back and better than ever, using CycleBar as her personal therapy and a platform to spread awareness about the importance of getting annual mammograms.
“I’m doing great now. I feel better than ever and it’s made me so much stronger,” Alterwein said. “CycleBar was a huge part of my therapy. I cried it out many times on the podium leading the classes, and the support that I’ve received back from my riders is incredible.”
Alterwein marked her one-year cancer free anniversary last April with a few big celebratory CycleBar rides.
Over the past few years, Alterwein received more lemons than she could count. But without blinking an eye, she turned them into pink lemonade.
“It does change your perspective on life and make you just a little more, truly grateful for the little things in life,” she said. “Now I’m just laser-focused on the little things and appreciating the little things that come my way each day – that’s the pink lemonade – if I can empower somebody with the knowledge of the importance of early detection.”
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Alterwein is leading Pink Rides throughout October with the goal of raising $3,000 to cover the cost of 20 mammograms through the National Breast Foundation’s free mammogram program. She will lead a Pink Ride in Montclair on Friday, Oct. 26 at 7:45 p.m.
The Montclair Pink Ride costs a $25 donation to ride or a $150 donation and ride. $150 covers the cost of one mammogram. There is also a donate only option for those who are not interested in the CycleBar ride.
“The pink lemonade is finding the best in my situation and what came out of it, appreciating each day and making my life the best it can be,” she said. “ We never know when it’ll be taken away from us.”
Registration links for the Montclair #AnnualMammosSaveLives Pink Ride:
$150 ride and donate: https://montclair.cyclebar.com/checkout/?packageID=103305
$25 Ride and donate: https://montclair.cyclebar.com/checkout/?packageID=103303
$150 Donation Only: https://montclair.cyclebar.com/checkout/?packageID=103306
$25 Donation Only: https://montclair.cyclebar.com/checkout/?packageID=103304
To keep up with Alterwein’s platform, follow her on Instagram at @jaclynbrooke23.