I'm a bodybuilder – my fit lifestyle hid my cancer for five years, but now I go to the gym for three hours a day | The Sun

A SUPER-FIT mom was stunned to discover her body had been growing a tumor for up to five years.

Now she's back in the gym for hours every day and has revealed how she beat cancer to become a bodybuilder.

Mom-of-one Annamarya Scaccia, 40, went to the doctor for a regular checkup in July 2020.

Despite her dedicated fitness regimen, the Texan was stunned when her doctor noticed abnormalities in her blood results.

At first, medical professionals advised her to cut back on the protein powders she was taking and reduce exercising to see if changed the results.

But the creatine levels in her kidneys also raised a red flag – and an ultrasound found a five-centimeter mass on her left kidney.

The lump was cancerous and, terrifyingly, had been growing for up to five years without Scaccia suspecting a thing.

“I was terrified because I didn't know if my worst fear would come true – that I wouldn't be able to watch my son grow up,” Scaccia said.

Before her diagnosis, the communications director was a kickboxer.

She was training for two hours a day, six days a week, and hoping to compete in Muay Thai fights.

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Scaccia had been focusing heavily on her fitness since 2017, after a long-term relationship ended, and was eating a high-protein diet to help her become stronger.

She was fitter than she had ever been before – and had no idea that there was something seriously wrong.

Scaccia said: “There wasn't a sign or, at least, I didn't recognize any signs."

The grateful mom credits her medical team with saving her life.

“The cancer was caught because I had a hyper-vigilant doctor who did her due diligence," Scaccia said.

"She didn't like the way my creatinine and blood urea nitrogen levels looked," the mom remembered, "so she wanted to investigate why."

Initial concern from the doctor eventually led to Scaccia's diagnosis on September 30, 2020.

Within a week, a urologist told her she would need a nephrectomy, which is removal of part or all of the kidney.

She didn’t yet know what type of cancer she had, nor how advanced it was.

Scaccia worried she wouldn’t be around to see her seven-year-old son, Kelly, grow up.

“He was frightened of losing me and clinging to me wherever we went," Scaccia said.

Scaccia's surgery that October revealed she had stage 1 chromophobe renal cell carcinoma.

The slow-growing, rare form of kidney cancer affects roughly five percent of cases.

Scaccia's doctors believe she had been living with it for up to five years without knowing it.

She claims doctors had previously dismissed concerns and hadn’t investigated further, leaving her both “surprised and angry” by the diagnosis.

Thankfully, the surgery was successful and Scaccia didn’t need further treatment.

Six months after recovery, she restarted her fitness journey, but this time with a twist: focusing on becoming a bodybuilder.

“I eased back into working out, starting slowly with walks," Scaccia said.

Then she took "boot camp classes with bodyweight exercises and resistance bands, and began lifting weights in April 2021."

Scaccia did have to give up some other forms of exercise.

“Kickboxing was no longer an option for me – at least, not training for competition.

"I just can't risk an opponent kicking my right side and damaging my right kidney.

“But I love being strong, and I wanted to get stronger, so I knew lifting weights was the perfect way to do so," she said.

Scaccia would spend up to three hours in the gym, six days a week to get her body in top form.

“I competed in my first natural bodybuilding show as a figure athlete in November 2021 after nine months spent training," she said.

While she competed in two shows in November 2022, Annamarya is now taking a break from competing.

“I spent the last two years trying to prove something to other people," Scaccia explained.

"My cancer didn't take me out, that my cancer didn't take away fitness from me, that I am more than my diagnosis."

Now, she's ready to rest.

“My body was clearly telling me something that I didn't want to listen to – that I needed a break, I need to focus on myself and deal with all of those emotions that I have been running away from," she said.

Scaccia would love to compete again, and is considering a return to bodybuilding "sometime late 2024."

"For now, I am going to put all my energy into myself, into healing, into living life for myself, so I can come back even stronger," she said.

She is now working as an ambassador for the Kidney Cancer Association and as a certified fitness and nutrition coach.

There, she helps other kidney cancer survivors and people with kidney-related concerns who want to get into weightlifting.

“I want to change the narrative," Scaccia said. "I want to make fitness fit for people like me, who operate in that grey space of nutrition."

She also hopes to make bodybuilding more accessible.

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“I want to open up the world of natural bodybuilding and make it more inclusive and welcoming of people like me," Scaccia said.

"Our muscle gains may not happen as quickly as other people who can pack in the protein. But we do gain, and we do get strong,” she said.

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