Back to Life Project: Volume 1: Lyly 

Our first volume is the beautiful Lyly Koenig, three-time cancer survivor. Read Lyly’s awe-inspiring story below.

“The fall of 2006 I was having a blast. I was living life to it’s fullest in San Diego, California. I had been an NFL Cheerleader for two teams, the St. Louis Rams, and the San Diego Chargers, I had a wonderful career, and was surrounded by the best group of girlfriends. One evening I was getting ready to head out with the girls when I noticed a lump on my left breast. Stupidly I ignored it, but finally got it checked. A few weeks later I was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer. It was the week of my 32nd birthday. Happy birthday to me. At the same time, I found out I had a BRCA II gene mutation, which is probably the cause of my getting cancer.
I packed up my SoCal life and my condo and moved back to my hometown of St. Louis to undergo treatment near my family. Cancer and I fought each other hard for a year. I submitted to what my Oncologist called, “the whole kitchen sink” treatment. Over that year I had numerous biopsy’s, a radical bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, herceptin treatments and lost all of my hair. I was finally cancer free by the end of 2007.

With a new lease on life I decided to make a huge change and moved to Miami to go back to school. At the end of 2009 I received my second degree, a degree in fashion design, and a new diagnosis of recurrent breast cancer. It was wrapped around my 1st and 2nd ribs at the sternum. Once again, I set aside my life and dreams to fight it out with cancer.This time I wanted to attack the cancer for all it’s worth. I did extensive research and found that MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas was the #1 Cancer Hospital according to US News and World Reports. So I packed up yet again and went to Houston. There I endured a major thoracic resection to remove the new cancer and portions of the effected ribs, chemotherapy and radiation, AGAIN. After another year of fighting, I had my pixie cut back and was again cancer free.

With yet another new lease on life, (you’d think I was a cat with all these lives I’ve been blessed with) I decided to move back to California. Upon moving back I met my now husband and started my new life with the love of my life. I’d started seeing a local oncologist at UCLA and all was good. I was cancer free and we even started to plan our family. My husband is in the Army and shortly after we married, he was called to deploy to the Middle East for a year. God gives us only what we can handle. I must’ve been meant to handle A LOT. We married in September, and he deployed the following January. The day he deployed was made even more painful in that I also received my 3rd cancer diagnosis.

This time it was all over my body, Stage IV, on my bones, my liver, around my lungs and in my lymph nodes. Stage IV is the end of the cancer staging road, you can’t go any further. I was told at this stage, it’s all about palliative care; making the rest of my life comfortable. I was not going to accept that. I was going to fight it again and win.
The year my husband was gone was one of the most difficult years of my life. I missed my husband more than I can put in words. In addition to missing him, I was in the fight of my life, for the third time. No surgery this go around, typically they don’t do surgery at Stage IV, they fight it with chemo and radiation. I started with an oral chemo once a day. I didn’t lose my hair this time, but did develop a terrible syndrome where the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet become inflamed and peel. Forget the platform heels! The chemo worked for a few months, despite that, my cancer frighteningly got worse pretty damn quick, leaving me in pain, unable to breathe and on oxygen, unable to lie down flat and barely able to walk without becoming winded. Cancer truly is a bitch. In my mind, I was still alive and I wasn’t going anywhere.

My Oncologist, UCLA’s Dr. Sara Hurvitz, came to me with an opportunity to take part in a clinical trial. It was a new way to fight cancer, a targeted therapy, aimed at fighting the cancer at the genetic level. Two dear cousins of mine have fought cancer with standard treatment and clinical trials for years. Sadly, a few years back one of them passed away, but not before an amazing fight (Miss you Phyllis!). Thanks to God, my other cousin is still with us and continues the good fight.
With the knowledge of their success with clinical trials, and with my own uncertain hope, I began the trial. I also began praying like I’ve never prayed before. If you saw me out in public and happened to catch me talking to myself, I was praying. I took, and still take, every opportunity to pray and also to give thanks for everything that I’ve been given. Shortly after I started the medicine I began to feel this physical confidence that this would be my miracle. The week I started the drug, my husband had to carry me up the stairs. Two weeks later I was running again. I’ve been on the medicine for almost a year, and as it’s turned out, these 4 little pills I take daily, have turned out to be my miracle. In December I will have a routine scan and I’m positive the results will show that I’m cancer free! There are two final reconstructive surgeries I need to have, and then, I feel like I can close the treatment part of my cancer journey. Although, cancer will always be a part of my life, a part of me. I can honestly say, I am thankful for having had cancer, because it changed me. It changed me for the better, helping me to see what’s truly important in life, and helping me improve myself.

Throughout my fight with cancer I have been surrounded by the most wonderful family and friends. Without their love and support I wouldn’t have made it. Shelly and Salon LG have played a huge part in my fight and my recovery. Shelly has been doing my hair since I was a Charger Girl, so she and I have a close friendship. She knows how important my hair has been to me, not only for me as a woman, but also being an NFL Cheerleader your hair is part of your uniform. Hair is such a huge part of femininity, so to go completely bald, twice, was traumatic. Shelly was there as a shoulder to cry on, and as my stylist helping me throughout the painfully slow growing out stage. I wore wigs until I was able to wear extensions.

Shelly gave me my first set of extensions and it was one of the best things to happen to me in the healing process. I’ve tried all types of extensions, and am wearing EasiLengths tapes, and sometimes the EasiPart hair piece for extra volume. I’m so in love with this system! Thank you to Shelly, Salon LG and EasiLengths for my transformation, you have helped me to feel whole again.”

We are so inspired by Lyly’s story and look forward to helping more women like her! We are so thankful for our talents to be able to use them for giving back.

Story written by Lyly Koenig