GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Andrea Andersen is in the fight of her life. A cancer diagnosis has changed everything for her and her family.
It’s a word most hope to never hear, and a diagnosis they hope to never receive: cancer. It’s likely impacted someone you know at some point whether they're survivors, currently fighting, or lost their battle.
A West Michigan family devoted to living a 'healthy and fit' lifestyle got some unexpected news they couldn’t believe. At only 27-years-old, a mother is facing stage 3 lymphoma cancer. She received these news just 3-weeks after giving birth.
“I have a tiny life preserver here that keeps me afloat when I think I am going to get lost in a sea of grief,” said Andrea Andersen.
Andersen believes in eating all organic food, staying physically fit, and staying away from anything that violates those two things. At 27-years-old she has had her first son. Most would say her and husband have it all, but a diagnosis that came three weeks after she gave birth to her son has her asking herself 'why'?
"We are exercising regularly. We are eating super healthy," said Andersen.
Andersen's top priority is being healthy. She is an avid crossfitter at Crossfit 616, and follows a paleo diet.
"We just totally fell in love with the lifestyle," she said.
She's married to the love of her life, John Andersen. He recalls the first time he ever saw her, and what caught his attention.
"Actually what caught my eye when I saw her was her red hair. Marriage was not on my radar, but I saw this beautiful woman with beautiful red hair and I said, 'I am going to marry her.'"
They did exactly that. If their life couldn't get even more picture perfect, they received their greatest gift 14 weeks ago, their first son, Graham. They say their life was complete.
"I couldn't stop crying it was the most magical moment I have ever had," said John.
What they didn't know is three weeks from the best moment of their life would be one of their worst. It all started with some acute pain.
"I started having these super swollen lymph nodes in my neck, but I really didn't think anything of it" she said.
After constant pressure from family members, she went to see a doctor. Her husband quickly becoming alarmed.
"The doctor pulls me aside and says you should be worried."
Andrea was diagnosed with stage 3 Lymphoma cancer.
"I thought to myself, I'm young, I'm healthy, I'm only 27-years-old, I exercise, I eat so well. How could this possibly be my life? But it is," she said.
The cancer has spread from her neck down into her chest. Andrea and John were struggling to understand why this would happen to her.
"How in the world? I just had this amazing baby. How could this be fair," she said.
Andrea will have to endure 6 months of chemo. Interestingly enough, something she's most nervous about is losing that beautiful hair that first caught her husband's eye.
"To me it's not just hair, it represents femininity, beauty, and pride, and yeah it's a big deal for me to lose it," she said.
Friday night was one of Andrea's last workouts before she'll undergo treatment for someone once so healthy she says it's goodbye to her workout routines for now.
"It's a grieving process to lose your health."
Andrea says what scares her the most is not being able to be the mom she wants to be for her son.
"One of my fears right now especially is that I'm not going to be the best version of his mom. That this chemo therapy is going to take it out of me.I'm not going to be able to play with him. I planned on breast feeding him longer, and I can't, but all of these things are better than not having a mom at all," she said.
She'll fight as hard as she has to so she can live another day for her husband and son, but she has advice for other young, healthy women that think this can't happen to them.
"If you have a feeling that something is wrong go and get it checked out. What's the reason to wait?"
According to the American Cancer Society there have been over 9,000 cases of Hodgkin Lymphoma Cancer diagnosed this year.