Competing with Cancer – Interview with Abigail Katie Walker

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Bodybuilding and competing can be a very positive activity for people. It can help build confidence, strength and health. It gives people goals to reach for and achieve, leaving them with a feeling of accomplishment. I’m always so interested in the person behind the amazing physique and pretty smile. It’s easy for people to judge bodybuilders, physique competitors and bikini girls based on their physical appearance and assume that with all those muscles and beauty they surely can’t be a great person too. But there are so many intelligent, inspiring, interesting and wonderful people in this sport that it’s important we get a little insight into the person behind the body. Here is one very inspiring lady, Abigail Katie Walker (nka Lambert), a 26-year-old amateur bikini competitor fighting breast cancer. She has had a double mastectomy and rounds of chemo and radiotherapy, yet through it all, she trained and competed. The cancer has now spread to other areas of her body, but she is remaining ever positive. The next lot of treatment will be her last chance. This is part of her inspiring fight and the sport she loves.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Abigail Walker

Abigail Walker

I’m 26. I’m a born and bred Yorkshire lass, a twin, but grew up in Devon on a shooting estate and in Somerset. I’m a country girl at heart with a typical upbringing of shooting, hunting, fishing, and other various hobbies and passions. I love cars and track days; guns (I have a section one firearms license and shotgun license); horses (I have ridden and competed literally from birth!!); and staying healthy in the gym.

What do you do for work?

I have worked in so many different industries. I think variety is key and also helps you develop more of an understanding of what you want to do if, like me, you’re unsure. Plus, various jobs give me good life experience. Specifically, I’ve worked in retail management; horse racing; sales/promotions for brands such as Red Bull and BMW; skilled artistic work such as fire breathing, stilt walking, angle grinding, and dancing; and TV work in smaller roles and stunt work.

Would you tell us some of your contest history and plans for the future in competing?

I was a Fit Factor competitor (placed 7th); competed in the NAC British Championship (I won); and Bikini Shape lead to an invite to participate in the Universe NAC Germany (placed 7th). I’m aiming to do UKBFF this year and hoping to go on to WBFF.

Abigail Walker

Abigail Walker

What got you into the fitness industry? You’ve obviously always been active with your riding, but when did you become more interested in the bodybuilding side of fitness?

I got into the fitness industry after an operation left me with severed nerves around 2 years ago. I stepped into a gym for the first time in Christmas 2013. I thought training in the gym would help me regain strength and more use of my arm, as my injury left me unable to hold the reins whilst riding and, for me, that was life changing. After training a little, Craig Matthews, a friend an fellow Fit Factor competitor, suggested that I compete in Fit Factor, at which point I laughed, thinking I had no chance! But I gave it a go and loved it! I then started to research a little more and met some amazing people along the way, including you, Rosie. People reacted so positively to me, and I loved the fit look, so from there it started!

Abi, I know over the last few years things haven’t been so plain sailing for you. It’s amazing you’ve still managed to find new interests and passions along with all your other hobbies. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the hurdles you’ve faced?

It all started when I was 19. I had suffered on and off with lumps in my breasts, and last year I had a big operation, which was my second operation. In 2014, I had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. It was such a scary experience that filled me with fear and doubt. I knew the operation had to go ahead, but to hear at such a young age that you have cancer and then face a double mastectomy, it was terrifying. At this point, my life and career were on track, and this was a blow. My thoughts ranged from how will I wash to is this it for me? I felt life was so unfair. When the operation was over. there was massive relief. After weeks of feeling happy and relieved, I began to feel useless and scared, wondering “what if it’s just the start?” I wanted to stay fit and positive, so the day I came out I went to see my horse, Joey, and began every day walking a mile and a half there and back. He kept me sane and never asked questions! In July 2014, it was a roller coaster of emotions as my results came back as clear, only for the cancer to return in October. Since then, I have been recieving treatment, both chemo and radio. There have been days I’ve been so ill I can barley lift my hand, and I want to spend days in bed.

After spending time with you, it seems you have a never ending supply of positivity and strength. It seems to come naturally to you to want adventure and to challenge yourself on a daily basis. Was competing one of these challenges? Can you tell us a bit about how your competing helped you through the tough days?

Abigail Walker

Abigail Walker

I have never been one to feel sorry for myself. I put that down to my upbringing making me tough! I felt I had to do something and prove to myself I was not beaten, so I entered the NAC British and did Universe. I’m still currently receiving treatment and staying positive. Life is literally too short to worry!

How did your illness affect training/eating/competing?

Eating after treatment is never easy. The nausea meant eating at all was a task. Luckily, I have good friends who supported me, and every time I just did not want to eat, they would present me with what felt like 100’s of options!! Days after treatment, I was still sick so even keeping food down was hard, so my energy was at an all time low. I kept a clean diet and as plain as I could so that the taste would not make me sick. Training was the hardest, as I would get so frustrated with myself, forcing every last rep when my body was so drained. I spent many a time throwing up after a session, crying or having a nose bleed. It was not pretty. There is only so much pre-workout could do to keep me going, so it became mind over matter. I thought “I can and I will!!” It was never about winning but about being the best I could be and not letting this illness win the fight.

How did you feel when the day of the competition finally came around?

I was uncertain about it. I had treatment 3 days before. Right up to show day, I was worried that I did not want to have a nose bleed on stage or pass out from tiredness. But, once I had my tan and gorgeous sparkling sapphire bikini on, I felt a million dollars. After stepping on stage and waiting for results, I was pleased to learn I had won! No one saw me, but after learning the news I collasped with emotion. On to the Universe I went, with another two weeks of grueling training, all while having chemo treatment, but again I loved it and felt amazing on stage. I had proved the point to myself that you can do anything if you put your mind to it! I would say as an afterthought that my extreme stubborness did me no favors, and I’m not saying people have to be so extreme, as I was advised numerous times to slow down. I did suffer after, as it took my body a while to bounce back. For me, though, it was worth every minute!

How did competing help?

Abigail Walker

Abigail Walker

I felt I had no head space for my illness, but only for other things, and the main one was the competitions. My focus became the day to day thought of eating the right food, getting to the gym, sleeping. My mind turned to tanning, bikini, and shoes. Before long, I was in a panic, as I only decided to compete 16 days out from the British, and that caused a different kind of pressure I needed. The time I spent on stage made me feel strong, invincible and proud, and I made others proud. In those moments, my illness did not exsist!

You’re such an inspiration Abigail, a beautiful, intelligent and strong woman. What kind of people/things inspire you?

When I see those people who don’t complain, who don’t brag on their achievments. I hate those who make excuses, like “oh they only did well because of who they know, not what they know!” I’m inspired by athletes who are self-made and have no snobbery because of their situation. I admire people who can be more than one person, like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Also, those people behind the scenes that don’t get enough credit inspire me! They are the ones that get you there mentally and physically, dishing out a compliment and not expecting one back, just good, honest people, people with manners and standards. Oh, I also admire your (Rosie’s) quads…pwwhhooooaaaarrrr. And lastly, I admire my twin sister, my friends, and Craig. They inspire me to be strong and positive and remind me that having down days and the odd tear is only being human! They remind me to always believe in myself and that I can be whatever I want to be!

Do you have any more plans to compete this year?

Recently I’ve had more tests and unwelcome results. The cancer has spread to other organs in my body, so right now I’m living life to the full and making plans to go to Vegas to get married. When I return from Vegas, I’ll be having my last course of chemo and radiotherapy, and this will be my last chance to see if the cancer will go into remission. Bodybuilding has become a great strength and focus for me. If I could bump into Jay Cutler in Vegas, I’d be a happy girl. I would love to train at the Golds Gym with the big boys. I would still love to compete in 2015 with UKBFF and aim towards the WBFF. I am still feeling strong and positive.

Abigail Walker

Abigail Walker

THANK YOU so much Abigail for sharing your story. I’m truly inspired by you, and I’m sure many others will be too. It’s so easy for us as athletes to become completely self-absorbed when we’re getting ready for a competition. It’s easy to start complaining about low calories and feeling tired. I think Abigail’s story gives us a chance to put things into perspective, push just a little bit harder, be the best you can be, stay happy and be thankful and mindful of your health. As a follow-up note, Abigail was given 6 months to live recently by her physicians. The author and friends arranged for her to meet her idol, Jay Cutler, when she is in Las Vegas marrying her sweetheart, Craig. Keep in touch with Katie by following her on Instagram and Twitter: @walker908.

Katie and her husband, Craig, meet her idol, 4X Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler

Katie and her husband, Craig, meet her idol, 4X Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler

 

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2 Comments

  1. Loyd

    April 17, 2015 at 03:25

    Very informative post, i’m regular reader
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  2. Denise

    April 25, 2015 at 22:25

    God Bless her, what a beautiful story of true strength.

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