JOY MUSGROVE BIKINI & BREAST CANCER BATTLES Interview by Ben Yosef
I learned about Joy Musgrove when she hopped into the October Natural Bikini Cover Model Search contest. As the contest rolled on there were tons of family, friends, and fans cheering for her and making a lot of awesome noise. Then I found out she was a breast cancer survivor. October being Breast Cancer Awareness month it was clear that no matter what happened with the contest, win or loose, she would be featured in this month’s issue. I had the pleasure of interviewing this beautiful, fun, fit fighter, and came away feeling incredibly inspired.
My first show was May 2012. I had a friend competing in an NGA show November 2011 and I was really interested in it. After spectating her show, I thought, “Damn, I’m totally going to do this!“ No coach, no trainer and I didn’t belong to a gym. All my training was at home in our “home gym”…and I used lots of Insanity DVDS! [laughs]
Nice. How did your first show go?
It was perfect! The best experience ever. I won 1st place in Bikini Novice and 4th in Open. I lost the Overall but it didn’t matter! I was on cloud 9 and so proud of myself.
Needless to say you were bitten by the bug! What came next?
I found another show that was 12 weeks away and decided to go for it. Same federation (OCB) and it was another Pro Qualifier. It was perfect because it allowed me some time to relax with nutrition a bit but not enough time to have to play catch up. I took 2nd place at that show.
And, you were still doing it all on your own, in your home gym at this point?
I was. It’s tiny but it works. I used the coffee table a lot too! [laughs]
And you have trained this way (no coach or standard gym) for the two years you have been competing?
No, I finally joined Team ForeverFit and OneLife in early 2013. So the first year (3 shows) I trained at home by myself, nutrition as well.
So, after doing three Natural contests, two OCB and one NGA, you decided to give the NPC a try?
Based on your physique and placement at that show, you did pretty well.
Yes I did! I was using it as a warm up show for 2013 really. Blew my mind. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d take Overall!
Then it was back to the natty shows?
I was planning on taking that National Qualification and using it this year. I had one full year to use it or I had to requalify. But then breast cancer happened and I lost it. I honesty feel like it was a blessing in disguise. Not the cancer but having to let my NQ go. That isn’t the direction I want to go in.
Why was it a blessing in disguise?
Because now I have my NGA Pro status. The NGA and the IFPA coincide. I can use them together. My IFPA Pro Card has slipped past me twice! I want it. The Yorton Cup is my goal. Nothing against the NPC. Max Muscle was a very well run show. But being a busy mom and wife, a son in travel soccer…. traveling far for national shows just isn’t feasible for me.
So, how and when did you learn that you had cancer?
It was this time last year (and I mean that quite literally) I felt a small lump in my right breast and knew it wasn’t normal. Thank God for small boobs! [laughs] Halloween was approaching, the holidays….everything was supposed to be so awesome.
“…two days before my NGA Pro debut, I got that call.”
I saw my GP first who sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound. After that, I had to go to a breast surgeon for a needle biopsy. Painless, thank God. I had that biopsy done on Halloween, last year. Went trick or treating later. [laughs] So waiting for the news was the longest time of my life!
I’m sure. I can’t even imagine.
November 21, two days before my NGA Pro debut, I got that call. I had JUST gotten home from taking my polygraph test and was shoving chicken in my mouth.
Wow, so you were in the midst of prep through this?
Oh yes! I told my husband first, then parents and just a few very close friends. But I made no announcements until after my mastectomy in December.
What made you decide to continue on into the show? I am sure many, if not most, would have been so rocked by this that life would have come to a screeching halt.
That honestly never crossed my mind. I was two days out from competing. Stepping away just wasn’t an option. Plus, we had zero details other then, “Yes, it’s breast cancer.” I still had a month of tests and doctors appointments ahead of me. Nothing could be done right away so quitting was not happening.
Wow, so where was your head during the show? Obviously you could focus because you snagged a Pro win that night. Was it a tough day for you?
I think I hid it well [laughs]. It was definitely in the back of my mind all day. I was especially concerned about my bandage from my needle biopsy showing under my bikini top! But thank God it didn’t! [laughs] To this day, my close family sees pictures from that show and say they can tell my smile was forced. It was.
I told my photographer at the end of the show, when it was all said and done. I whispered it in his ear. His poor jaw dropped. He got wide eyed and was at a loss for words. Poor dude! God bless him, Mike Cadotte!! He took so many awesome pics for me.
So, you had the operation done right after the show.
Yes, less then a month later.
What was your mindset like as the date approached?
My mindset? I was in a “let’s do this and get it over with” mindset! I wasn’t scared until they were literally wheeling me into the OR room. My hubby and bestie were with me the morning of and had me cracking up.
It’s incredible that you were able to keep a cool head during this time. I suppose that’s a testament to your personality type as well as having solid people in your corner.
Amen! Ben, I’m a parent. When you’re told you have cancer, you truly have no other choice but to become a rock. I lost it, don’t get me wrong. But in private, when no one was around and for like 10 minutes. Then I wiped my face, took deep breaths, prayed, and prayed some more.
What exactly was the procedure?
I had a nipple sparing bilateral mastectomy with Sentinel Lymph node Biopsy. In short, I had all the breast tissue removed leaving behind my skin and nipples. Then something called expanders for 3 months. I had those filled like a water balloon for a few weeks to stretch the skin and allow ample time for nerve/tissue repair. Three months later, at the end of March, I had the expanders removed and implants placed.
Wow, so the cancer was in both breasts?
No, only my right. It was small, Stage 1 but Grade 2…a little aggressive. It runs on my dad’s side of the family. I had no hesitation in deciding to operate on both sides.
So, the left side was for precautionary measures?
Totally by choice, yes.
How long did it take you to recover?
I was back in the gym just doing some cardio and legs by the end of January/early February. I couldn’t do anything crazy. I had like zero ROM in my arms. I had a friend/trainer come to the house a couple of times to work on it with me. I also knew that my second surgery was in March so no need to go nuts trying to play catch up in the gym when I’d be out again until May.
All in all, by June 1, I was cleared for all training. My rule of thumb via my plastic surgeon was, “If it hurts, don’t do it.”
It’s incredible to think that all this happened within the past year. So, you just competed this past weekend? When did you start prepping for this show?
I was able to start prep in June of this year. I hired a trainer at my gym for help with modifications etc. There was a lot I still just couldn’t do. It’s amazing how much you feel your chest while performing any movement. [laughs] Don’t take advantage of that shit ha! I was definitely skinny fat. I had lost all my muscle and had skinny noodle arms. It was embarrassing.
Well, your resilience and ability to get back in the game after your experience is inspiring and sort of shocking. You have a lot to be proud of and thankful for. The package you brought to the Charm City looked amazing and you landed in a very respectable second place. And despite the ordeal you had just come out of, it looks like your physique was on par with your best showings. Would you agree?
I would definitely agree with that. Thank you, Ben!
Tell me about the tattoo on your chest.
“I don’t lie when I say I wear my heart on my chest.”
It’s a Catholic Sacred Heart. It’s pretty old school. I don’t lie when I say I wear my heart on my chest. I go big and bold or not at all when it comes to tattoos. I hear I’m the chic that competes with tattoos and plays dubstep music at finals! [laugh] I’ll take that.
Are there more tattoos in your future?
Oh hell yes! I’m saving my right forearm for a nice cancer tribute.
Nice. All in. How did you hook up with Muscle Club Apparel?
I entered their 2013 Spokesmodel Contest and won. I repped for them last year and this year.
What has the experience been like working with Muscle Club, and what are some of the responsibilities of a Spokesmodel?
It’s been great! I was able to be apart of a real photo-shoot for their brand, May of 2013. I’ve gotten to know and be apart of the Muscle Club family. They are an amazing couple, so friendly. I get surprise packages with gym clothes. I mean, that does not suck! [laughs] My responsibilities include sharing their FB and/or IG statuses, reaching their brand out to my followers and fans, snapping selfies in their clothes when I’m wearing them (which is practically all day everyday!). I truly am a Spokesmodel for a company I back 110%.
That’s pretty awesome. Are you competing in any of the year-end championship shows?
I’m currently four weeks out from my NGA Pro show. It’s the same show I competed at last year, with breast cancer. This will be an emotional show for me.
Well, that’s exciting, and I can imagine emotions will run high. Good luck with your Pro title defense! What are the chances that your cancer will come back in the future?
Five percent. My chances are very low. Thank God it was caught early. But everyday Ben…everyday…I think about that. No, I pray about it.
Well, I am sure you have a lot of wonderful, healthy life to live. What do you see for your future in the sport of Bikini Competition?
My ultimate goal is to obtain my IFPA Pro status and compete with the NGA AND IFPA as a Pro. I want to qualify and be invited to The Yorton Cup.
I hope to ride this train as long as my body and health will take me. I love the sport of Bodybuilding. I love meeting new people and making new connections. I love pushing myself and reaching new goals. I simply love it all. It’s not a good day until you’ve sweat.
At the end of the day, I’m going to do what makes me happy. As long as I still get butterflies, feel pumped, and exceed my own personal expectations, I’m going to continue competing as a Bikini Competitor. A natural one.
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