Cancer Survivor to Pro Strongwoman

31917288_1533521918630409_r.jpeg31917288_1533521951744504_r.jpeg31917288_1533521975459705_r.jpegMy name is Karrie Ann I am a 46-year-old United States Marine Corps veteran and my strongman journey has been an unexpected whirlwind.  In July of 2012 when I was 40 years old I fell deathly ill after being misdiagnosed, was hospitalized and placed on life saving dialysis in ICU with an unknown diagnosis. I was so ill I had to fill out Power of Attorney paperwork in the event I became unable to make my own medical and legal decisions.  Through lab tests and imaging it was discovered that there was a mass in my throat on my parathyroid glands.  The images at the time did not alarm the doctors and once they were able to stabilize my condition and repair my kidneys we scheduled surgery to have the mass removed.  They did not feel at the time that the surgery was urgent and it was not until October 2012 that the operation was scheduled and performed. 

Unfortunately, the surgery was far more complicated than the doctors anticipated.  Once they made the incision it became clear that the mass was much larger and spread throughout my neck, around my carotid artery, and into my lymph nodes and it was cancer.  Since the surgery was only supposed to be the removal of one small mass and this would require more time and the total removal of my thyroid, 3 of my parathyroid glands, and some of my lymph nodes the surgeon needed permission from my next of kin to continue with the operation.  My 20-year-old daughter was with me that day and was there in the event of an emergency.  Neither of us could have predicted that she would have to make the impossible decision to either close my incision, wake me up and allow me to recover from the anesthesia and then ask me if I wanted the emergency surgery or to grant the surgeon permission to perform the emergency surgery and advise me afterwards.  It was very emotional for her and she did have some trepidation but ultimately with the surgeon explaining the urgency of the situation she gave permission for him to go forward with the removal of the masses, the cancer, and the organs affected.   She was afraid that she made the wrong decision but ultimately she helped to save my life and get me on the path to wellness and recovery.

After surgery, I had to go through radiation treatment where I had to ingest radioactive iodine 131 (RAI-131) to kill off any remaining cancer cells that were not removed during surgery.  The treatment included remaining totally isolated from human or animal contact for 10 full days and eating with paper plates and utensils so they could be burned so as not to spread radioactive waste or contaminate people or pets. Recovering from thyroid cancer and radiation treatment and learning to live without a thyroid and only 1 parathyroid was a difficult journey and sadly the cancer did return in October of 2013.  I repeated another round of radiation treatment and had quarterly blood tests and yearly whole body scans to screen for any indication that the cancer returned.  I was placed on medication that I must take for the remainder of my life to replace the thyroid hormone that is no longer present after the removal of my thyroid.  Finding the balance between appropriate dosage and the best quality of life I could have has been an ongoing process.  There were months where I was so weak and tired from inadequate dosing that I was unable to perform simple tasks.  Carrying groceries into the house was nearly insurmountable. 

Fast forward to January of 2016 and finally there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  My doctors and I were able to find the proper dose for my medication and all of my follow up scans were negative for cancer.  I was officially in remission and my first order of business was to rebuild my body and become more physically fit.  Here is where my strongman journey began.  I had a friend who owned a gym and was a personal trainer/coach. I started going to a cardio class and although after being ill for so long it was very tough to keep up I did my best to power through it.  One day he pulled me aside and asked me what my goals were and I gave him the standard “to get in shape and get toned.”  He suggested I enter a strongman contest he was hosting in April 2017 and my initial reaction was “I could never do that!”  He explained to me how training for a competition or a show can help you focus on specific goals and give you something to work towards.  The contest was strictly for beginners so I took a chance and entered the contest.  I trained for about 3 weeks, did the contest and came in dead last.  Where I placed in the contest was irrelevant to me because doing the contest sparked something in me I did not know I had inside.  It ignited a passion for the sport of strongman and a genuine hunger to learn and become the best version of my strong self that I possibly could.  I couldn’t wait to do another contest and I signed up for my next competition in September 2017 where I took 3rd place in the novice division.  Winning that medal meant so much to me because it was a physical manifestation of how far I had come from being in the hospital so ill 5 years prior.  I was so proud I slept in it all night.  My next contest was in December 2017 and I placed dead last in my division but felt it was my best performance in any contest so far.  Each time I competed I learned more about the sport and more about myself as well.  From December 2017 to March 2018 my coach and I prepared for the biggest contest of my short strongman career.  Motor City’s Strongest Man and Woman was held in Brownstown, Michigan on March 11, 2018.  I went into the contest with a mindset that I was going to have fun and enjoy myself, the events, and my fellow competitors.  Throughout the entire contest I had no idea what my score was or how well I was doing until the last event.  I was told I was in first place and my coach told me what I needed to do to stay in first place.   I was able to perform what was asked of me by my coach and secured a first-place victory.  My trophy was a large sword that unfortunately I could not sleep with (ha-ha).  This win was so important to me because it validated all the hard work and training sessions I put in the gym.  Again, it was a symbol of how far I came from conquering cancer to becoming a serious athlete. 

Winning first place at Motor City qualified me for USS Nationals in New York in June 2018 where there would be nearly 400 athletes competing and roughly 1000 spectators.  My approach to this contest was again to have fun and experience the event and all it had to offer.  As a relative newcomer to the sport I had no expectations going in and wanted to simply perform to the best of my ability among the elite athletes that the United States had to offer.  The weights were intimidating, the implements unfamiliar and frightening but the athletes and the volunteers were amazing.  Feeling relaxed and focused I went into the first event and won it.  I took that momentum and carried it through the rest of the contest and gave it my all.  Going into the last event I was tied for first place with another incredible competitor.  Neither of us were able to break the tie in the last event so per the tie breaker protocol the events were broken down and I ultimately took second place.

 Winning second place at USS Nationals in my division secured me a bid for Women’s Pro Worlds in Memphis Tennessee October 6, 2018.  Physically, I am preparing and training to compete in the arena with women I have watched and admired through social media and in person at the Arnold Classic and Pro Women’s Worlds last year in Detroit, Michigan.  I remember sitting on the sidelines at USS Nationals watching my friend and teammate compete and then watching the women at Pro Worlds and wanting to get to that level someday.  15 months after starting strongman training in my little local gym I have exceeded all my own expectations and grown physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I never expected to have this happen so soon and because it was so unexpected I am not financially prepared for this opportunity of a lifetime. 

I am in need of sponsors to help with expenses related to travel, lodging, food, and equipment for this contest.  It would be my humble honor to represent cancer survivors, veterans, mothers, and warriors still fighting against this wicked disease, competing at an elite level amongst the greatest female strongwomen in the world.  My story is one of hope and perseverance and it is my dream to inspire others who have been or are still in a similar situation to keep fighting and to use this platform to bring education and put a face to thyroid cancer.  I am Karrie Ann Davis, I am a fighter, I am a survivor, and I am a strongwoman. 


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Karrie Ann Davis 
Allen Park, MI
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