The toughest battle of all: Vegas instructor beats breast cancer

All athletes, even Les Mills instructors, face some sort of adversity during the course of their journey.

As instructors, we battle all sorts of things, whether they be injuries, technical difficulties or struggling class numbers.

But the battle Heather McCausland Taylor has tackled over the course of the last 9 months  far outweighs any broken toe or Ipod that dies in the middle of the back track.

Taylor, a BodyPump, BodyFlow, RPM and CXWORX instructor from the Las Vegas area, is a breast cancer survivor. Taylor has been teaching BodyPump, BodyFlow and RPM for five years before adding CXWORX to her resume earlier this year, and in February, she discovered she had a lump on her breast.

“My doctors sent me for a mammogram, but the type of cancer I have is not picked up by the screening,” Taylor wrote in an email. “When we did an ultrasound, you could see it plain as day, and the doctors did not like the looks of it.”

Taylor’s doctors had good reason to be worried.

“We did a biopsy the next day, and found out about 10 days later that the tumor was malignant,” she said. “So literally, a self-exam saved my life.”

Taylor said had she not discovered the lump on her own, it could’ve been years before the cancer was discovered. “I am so thankful that I found it when I did,” she said.

Taylor had surgery in June – right after earning her CXWORX certification – and like any Les Mills instructor, wanted to dive back into her programs right away. But that wouldn’t be the case, and Taylor had to endure time on the sidelines, something no instructor enjoys.

“Although it was tough, I had to learn to listen to my body and let it heal,” she said. “This is not something that [a] typical instructor is good at doing. We like to try to teach through injuries, not sit at home healing.”

Taylor endured eight chemotherapy treatments about two weeks apart, and she was cleared to teach RPM first, “because it had less pressure on my pectoral muscles.

“Let’s just say I have trouble doing things on a low level,” she said.

But that is a lesson Taylor has endured over this long battle, and when she is cleared to resume teaching BodyPump, CXWORX and BodyFlow in the coming weeks, it’s one she won’t forget.

“I’ve got a long way to go to get my fitness level to where it was, but I’ve healed up well,” she said, “and am being very conscious about taking it one step at a time.”

Taylor teaches at the Las Vegas Athletic Club, which has it’s advantages, she says, as she’s mingled with the Queen of Les Mills, Susan Renata, a few times.

Renata, the program director for BodyPump who used to be based in Auckland, New Zealand, now works out of San Francisco.

“We host quarterlies twice a year, and now that she is based out of the Les Mills West Coast office, she is usually a presenter,” Taylor said. “She also came and taught classes in our clubs for a week this summer.”

Taylor said she should be able to continue her teaching routine through her radiation treatments, which start in two weeks, and when her club launched new releases earlier this fall, the theme was breast cancer awareness.

“I made the pink RPM bandanas for our team, along with a bunch of other breast cancer awareness goodies,” she said. “All the presenter teams did a great job representing the cause.”

Taylor says she is feeling better than ever from a health standpoint, and her strength, courage and fight embodies what the Les Mills tribe is all about, that strangers can become instant friends and that all battles can be conquered no matter how tough.

“My doctors are all amazed at how much strength and muscle integrity I have kept even though my activity level has been pretty low for several months,” she said. “I owe it all to Les Mills.”

And Taylor’s advice for other breast cancer patients? Don’t wait. “Do self exams,” she said. “My doctor told me that it is very important for us to do monthly exams, because we will notice a change so much sooner than a doctor or a test will. As far as I am concerned, this is a no-brainer.”

Heather Taylor (right) poses with Susan Renata at the Las Vegas Athletic Club, where Taylor is a group fitness instructor, last summer. Taylor, who teaches four Les Mills group fitness programs, recently beat breast cancer.

Best of luck to you Heather, and thanks for sharing your story. You truly embody what the Les Mills tribe is all about, and your courage is truly an inspiration for the entire tribe. I look forward to meeting you in Las Vegas in March.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.