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Well-Known Reporter Turns to Fitness to Fight Rare, Aggressive Cancer

AP reporter Meg Kinnard Lifting weights
Victoria Hansen
South Carolina Public Radio
Associated Press political reporter Meg Kinnard lifts weights at her Lexington County gym to strengthen her body as she fights invasive breast cancer.

AP Political Reporter Meg Kinnard pulls out all the punches to fight a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer.

Meg Kinnard makes quick work of a maze of heavy weights and intimidating, high tech machines. Her lean muscles flex against the metal. Sweat beads on her freshly shaven head.

The 40-year-old appears more like a superhero than a woman fighting for her life, especially as she talks about saving others.

“If something is going on with your body and your doctor’s answers aren’t satisfying you, push harder,” says Kinnard.

Kinnard wants people to learn from her hindsight.

A Delayed Diagnosis

Nearly four years ago, Kinnard was performing a self-exam and found what felt like a pebble. Her doctors saw no need for a biopsy but instead watched it with regular mammograms.

That it, until February, when Kinnard finally got “the pebble” tested. It was breast cancer.

She didn’t know then what stage or what kind. So, Kinnard researched every possibility. When a woman she’d never met told her by phone it was stage three, invasive ductal carcinoma, Kinnard was relieved.

“I thought well, at least she didn’t talk about that really bad kind. That really rare kind that’s just terrible.”

At least she wasn’t told inflammatory breast cancer.

Still, Kinnard had a bad feeling. It had taken years to get a diagnosis. What else might have been missed? She sought a second opinion at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

The “Really Bad” Kind

There, doctors discovered the cancer had not only spread, but it was in fact inflammatory; that really bad kind. It’s rare, aggressive and only found in roughly 3% of breast cancer patients.

Kinnard was stunned, but grateful.

Finally, she knew her opponent. She struck back by undergoing months of chemotherapy as she prepared for surgery and radiation.

But cancer had other plans.

“My tumor is definitely being rare and aggressive,” says Kinnard. “The last trip I had to Texas my doctors told me that my tumor is still shrinking. But it’s not shrinking as quickly as they want.”

The tumor wasn’t yet small enough to remove surgically and Kinnard only had weeks left of chemotherapy.

“Fortunately for me though, I’m also very rare and aggressive.”

Kinnard came back fighting cancer with everything she could.

“I have learned through doing research that getting more exercise, building more muscles and having more activity is something cancer hates.”

Fighting with Fitness and Diet

Already fit, Kinnard now works out twice a day. She fasts before her weekly chemotherapy she says to starve the tumor. She also given up sugar entirely after learning it’s what tumors crave. She hopes a combination of approaches will wear the tumor down.

“If that’s not the case, if they don’t think I’m a good candidate for surgery, I’m still preparing my body for the best possible environment if I have to be one of the people who lives with cancer,” says Kinnard. “There are many people who do.”

But Kinnard can’t help but think back and wonder what could have happened if she had demanded a biopsy sooner, or if she hadn’t gotten that second opinion at all.

That’s why she’s sharing her story and encouraging others to be their best advocates.

Lives Saved

Already Kinnard has heard from women who have since gotten mammograms. Some found tumors. One woman was not only diagnosed but successfully treated.

“She said she found a pebble too. She always thought it was going to feel differently but the way I described it, the way she heard me say it, she felt the exact same thing.”

Somehow, Kinnard has found a way to shine a light on what she admits can be a very dark place. She says she frequently readjusts her thinking.

“There are dark periods in all of this where cancer is a big, bad enemy and it puts your in a dark place,” she says. “But far more so than that are the positive pieces of it.”

Kinnard will head back to Houston at the end of the month where doctors will size up the tumor again. They will double check her malignant lymph nodes and make sure the cancer hasn’t spread. Doctors will decide then if surgery can be performed in August.

Yes, Kinnard is nervous. But she knows she’s giving it her all.

Victoria Hansen is our Lowcountry connection covering the Charleston community, a city she knows well. She grew up in newspaper newsrooms and has worked as a broadcast journalist for more than 20 years. Her first reporting job brought her to Charleston where she covered local and national stories like the Susan Smith murder trial and the arrival of the Citadel’s first female cadet.