As a professional race announcer and fitness innovator, Fitz Koehler is accustomed to using her loud personality to push people to keep going even when it seems impossible. She hopes her new book, an equally explosive exploration into her journey with breast cancer, inspires a similar mindset for cancer warriors while offering some tears and laughs along the way.
“My Noisy Cancer Comeback: Running at the Mouth While Running for My Life,” now available for purchase, is a charming page-turner full of heart that isn’t afraid to be frank about the ugly parts of cancer — or, as Koehler writes, “the angry little cell that tried to silence this very noisy and very bossy blonde.”
Koehler’s book is much more than a memoir about her own cancer, though. The way she sees it, a sense of purpose (in addition to excellent medical care) is the reason she was able to win her battle. And, much like when she’s cheerleading for runners at a race or rallying a fitness client through their last rep, Koehler wants her writing to be a source of motivation.
“Professionally, what I do is I tell people, ‘You can do better and you can be better, and this is how you should, and I can help,’” Koehler says. “When it comes to cancer treatment, it’s different for everybody. But I thought if I could give some other people a little kick in the can and encourage them to still live while fighting, that would be a good idea.”
In February of 2019, just two months after her annual mammogram had suggested a clean bill of health, Koehler discovered a small lump in her left breast that would eventually be diagnosed as stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma. She was propelled into a new version of life where she was juggling chemotherapy, radiation and surgery all while being a mother and jet setting across the country for her job.
“When the side effects of my treatment started kicking in, each day brought a new ‘what the hell’ moment. The kind of stuff you just can’t make up,” Koehler writes. “My experience wasn’t quick or easy — it was brutal. Every cell in my body was being ravaged. And I felt it. But the last thing I wanted to be, or allow people to view me as, was a victim.”
Koehler hadn’t originally planned to write a book because of that very desire to avoid pity from others. In fact, she hadn’t planned to even go public with her diagnosis at first. “I come from a place of strength,” says Koehler. “It’s who I am. And whether people view me as strong or not, it’s how I see myself and how I choose to live.”
What pushed her to begin sharing her journey ended up being the odder side effects of treatment—like losing your nostril hair or your eyes changing color—that she felt no one ever talks about.
“Everyone knows you might feel sick and tired,” Koehler says. “But I just kept having side effects that were crazy to me that nobody ever tells you about, where I kept thinking, ‘That sucks. But this is really funny.’”
Thinking people would get a kick out of the absurdity of some of her experiences in treatment, Koehler began keeping track of all the ways her body began to change. But as she was sitting in hotels and airports in between treatment sessions, clinging onto moments of normalcy while fighting for her life, she realized that her entire story is valuable.
In a video she shared across her social platforms, Koehler revealed her diagnosis with headstrong optimism. The video showcases her Koehler-brand stubbornness as she vows to continue working races, declarations that make her chuckle now but that she kept true to while going through treatment and she thinks could be sources of strength for other warriors.
“Once you are diagnosed, people start looking to you as a resource,” Koehler says. “I’m not an expert on cancer by any means, but since I revealed my diagnosis, I feel like every two weeks someone else is coming to me and saying, ‘Since my mom was diagnosed…’ or ‘I’ve been diagnosed and you are a great role model.’ All of our stories matter.”
While Koehler’s own story is specifically about breast cancer, she doesn’t think her diagnosis boxes her in or limits the impact her journey could have on readers. “I think the elements I touched on in the book are universal to all types of cancer,” she says. “There are some universal experiences and I’m hopeful that I can support someone with [other cancer types]. No matter what brand of cancer you’re dealing with, it’s all pretty difficult and I wish everybody else strength and success.”
“My Noisy Cancer Comeback: Running at the Mouth While Running for My Life” is available to order through Koehler’s website, fitzness.com, featuring a signed version and a fun little gift with purchase. The book is also now available in hardcover, paperback, e-book and audiobook formats wherever books are sold.