Brooke Thomas was diagnosed with stage-three melanoma when she was 26 years old and pregnant with her first daughter.
“I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and they basically told me I had to make a decision quickly,” Thomas said. “I could have chemotherapy and lose the baby, and that’s really what they pushed me to do, or I could cut the cancer out, but I’d have to do it immediately. They were afraid because melanoma spreads fast.”
Thomas chose to cut the skin cancer out from her side and within 24 hours she was prepped for surgery. Five or six nurses held Thomas down because she couldn’t use anesthesia because of her pregnancy. They applied topical lidocaine and put something in her mouth to bite down on. Fifty stitches later, the cancer was out.
“A cancer diagnosis doesn’t feel good,” said Thomas, now 40 and a mother of two. “It changes you. My scar was like a shark attack – it was awful. I hated it. I felt like I didn’t want anyone to know; I didn’t want to think about it.”
Thomas realized that hiding the scar was just a way of covering up her feelings.
“It started me on a personal journey to redefine what I was doing with my life, what healthy really was,” she said. “I started to appreciate the scar.”
Formerly in the corporate sector, Thomas changed directions and became a certified nutritionist to learn more about how to live a healthy lifestyle.
With her corporate career, she said, “I was going down the path of what I thought I was supposed to be doing, what the world told me to do, what my college degree told me to do. When I had that diagnosis, everything stopped, and I thought, am I really doing what I am created to do?”
Thomas created 360 Your Life – a platform to teach people how to live a healthy life. She wrote “Thankful 30 Recipes” and “Thankful 30 Crock Pot Edition,” and appeared several times on NBC Charlotte Today, in the Huffington Post and InStyle magazine. Her blog includes recipes for kid-healthy snacks, lunch suggestions to take to work, power snacks, breakfast tips and reasons to eat chocolate.
“We have one life to live and I was a huge people pleaser,” she said. “I wanted people to like me. I wanted to do what people wanted me to do. That’s where I was stuck in business and in life.”
She decided to stop being a people pleaser.
She formed Live Out Loud with Brooke Thomas – a new platform to empower women to find their true calling, develop authentic relationships and support one another in business and in life.
“I’m a supporter of women coming together and teaching women how to have each other’s front, sides and back,” Thomas said. “To get rid of the rivalry, get rid of anything that’s holding them back so that women can work together and really trust each other and step into who they were called to be.”
Her new program includes Live Out Loud, a 12-week mentorship program with 10 to 12 women and Live Out Loud, Live Event, a three-day retreat for 100-150 women in Palm Beach, Florida. The retreat is in July and will feature speakers on topics such as empowerment, authenticity and inspiration. (C5 readers can use the LOL200 code through the end of May for a $200 discount on the registration fee.)
Thomas’ cancer has not returned, but she goes for blood work every six months.
“I had to change my mindset to be an overcomer,” she said. “Instead of worrying and complaining, I had to go so high above (the diagnosis).”
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Here are the facts:
- Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.
- In the past decade, the number of new melanoma cases diagnosed annually has increased by 53 percent.
- Most cases are associated with exposure to the sun.
- More people develop skin cancer because of indoor tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking.
- Regular use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent.
Photos: Courtesy of Brooke Thomas