Fitness athlete Monika Dalmady never could have predicted she would be diagnosed with cancer at such a young age but she’s determined to fight back
By Mercedes Kay Gold
Monika was only twenty when she left Hungary. She followed her mother to Toronto, searching for a bigger better life! She quickly began filling the pages of her happily ever after. Monika became a dental assistant, falling in love, and having a son named Christian. As her son grew older and gained more independence, Monika discovered a passion for Thai Boxing. However, finding people against in her weight class proved next to impossible (at the time she weighed just 100 pounds and the minimum fighter weight was 110 pounds). Then after watching girlfriend Beata place second in a Fitness Model competition, Monika decided to turn her focus to fitness competitions. She hit the gym, determined to sculpt her physique and put on more muscle.
Monika decided to compete with both the Ontario Physique Association and Fitness Star Network. They each provided unique opportunities to display her five-foot-one physique. Between 2011 and 2014, Monika rocked the bikini stage six times, placing top three in all but one of the events. Obtaining her Fitness Star Network Pro Status and appearing as a Toronto SUNshine Girl opened doors to media exposure and product sponsorship. Monika had found her fitness niche and couldn’t be happier. Her life was going as planned.
On May 9, 2015, everything changed for Monika. She had recently been overcome by a very painful burning sensation in her chest area that she described as similar to acid reflux but more intense. The pain soon became excruciating that she had trouble breathing. Monika drove herself to the hospital, where she stayed for five frightening nights waiting for the results of her biopsy.
The results sent Monika’s head spinning. She had primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL). Although a stage-one cancer, the tumor was significant in size she would need chemotherapy immediately.Time was of the essence. The tumor had already spread across her chest cavity, and her vital organs were in harm’s way.
Monika would start the first of six chemotherapy sessions a few weeks later. All she could think of was her ten-year-old son, and she was determined to get better.
She was exhausted and weak, making work impossible. Her white blood cell count was dangerously low, so she was advised to keep movement to a minimum. Bedridden, Monika spent hours surfing the Web looking for answers. She couldn’t make sense that she was fit, ate healthy and had Cancer at 34.
At fourteen days into her Chemotherapy, Monika broke down in tears watching her hair fall out in handfuls during a shower. When the tears dried, she decided this would be a turning point in her treatment, and that she wasn’t going to let cancer get the best of her. Monika shaved her head, and posted her bald selfies on Instagram. By the time her eyebrows and eye lashes fell out, she didn’t shed a single tear! Cancer would take her hair, but it would not take her power.
Once Monika’s white blood cell count returned to a safe level, she went back to the gym, however, her doctor was still worried about the risk of infection. On good days, however, working out was a safe haven, bringing normalcy to chaos.
Monika’s tiny 98-pound frame couldn’t afford to lose any more weight. Between nausea that limited a lot of foods and painful stomach burning after meals, eating was challenging. She force-fed herself simple foods like chicken, beef, potatoes, salads, chicken soup, and ice cream. She was also determined to push through her workouts. The gym, after all, was her happy place.
Her last chemo session was September 29, 2015, and Monika is determined to be fitter and feel better than ever. “I train just as intensely as before, but I’ve had to adjust my weight,” she says. “I lost a lot of muscle and strength. I basically had to start from the bottom again.” Now 35, Monika has plans on competing in fitness again soon. She’s had several invitations to Fitness STAR and may try the OPA again. “Positive thoughts heal you!” And working out helps make you strong again