Seven years ago, Lisa Krause decided she wanted to get into professional bodybuilding. The mom of three and academic assistant principal in the Allentown School District was determined to compete in her first bikini competition that year.
“I did terrible, but I stuck with my training,” she says.
Krause continued to compete and train hard. Soon, she started to place within National Physique Committee (NPC) shows, the largest amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States. Then in 2018, Krause earned her pro card within the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB), considered the most disciplined bodybuilding league. Going into the 2020 season, Krause was in the best shape of her life and planned to compete in one of its biggest shows: IFBB Masters Baltimore Pro on Oct. 31.
Training for success
To get there, Krause mastered posing and bodybuilding techniques. She also followed a rigorous training schedule designed by her coach that included pre-work cardio sessions at the gym, working all day at school and then training again in the evening. Sundays were devoted to meal prep, where she whipped up six mini meals per day for the week. “They include lots of protein and veggies,” she says.
Screening for better health
After an appointment for a Pap test was delayed due to COVID-19, Krause went to gynecologist, Travis Dayon, MD, with LVPG Obstetrics and Gynecology, in July. She was surprised when he found a small bump on her cervix.
“Dr. Dayon said it was likely benign and would need to be removed. But as an extra precaution, he suggested I have an ultrasound to make sure everything else was OK,” she says.
However, it was not. The ultrasound identified a golf ball-size tumor on her left ovary. “I had no symptoms at all,” she says.
“Please don't put off your annual checkups. If I had skipped this GYN exam, who knows where I would be,” she says.
After three ultrasounds, bloodwork and computed tomography (CT) scans, it was determined the tumor likely was not cancerous, but still a concern. Krause met with gynecologic oncologist M. Bijoy Thomas, MD, with LVH Gynecologic Oncology, to discuss a treatment plan.
“This tumor was benign, however Lisa was at risk for having it develop into cancer. I recommended that she have a complete hysterectomy, performed with robotic surgery technology,” Thomas says.
Putting health first
After the diagnosis, Krause competed at a September show in Pittsburgh where she placed third, but plans for an October competition in Reno, Nevada, changed. “I was losing focus knowing I had this mass on my ovary. It was very disappointing, but I knew I had to put my health first,” she says.
The first available surgery was Oct. 19 – just 12 days before IFBB Masters Baltimore Pro competition. “I had it in my head that I was going to do this show,” she says. “It would give me a goal and a focus on something to strive for to get me out of bed. I thought, ‘I can do this.’”
When Krause asked Thomas about doing the Baltimore competition, she felt supported. “He was the perfect surgeon for me. While I knew I had to put my health first, Dr. Thomas also understood that staying active was very important to me,” she says.
Determined to compete
Robotic surgery, performed using small incisions, made it possible for Krause to consider competing in the show. Still, she had minimal time to recover before hitting the stage in a bikini and heels. “In the days after surgery, I did some walking and training with lighter weights. Every day, my swelling went down, and my coach reminded me I was a winner already for just getting on the stage so soon after surgery,” Krause says.
The night before competition, she had her tan sprayed on shades darker to camouflage her bruising. It did not fully cover it, but “I was so proud of myself that I did it. It made me feel like I could accomplish anything,” she says.
Supportive competitors and community
Krause was overwhelmed with support from other competitors and attendees who knew about her surgery after she shared some details on social media. “Word spread like wildfire,” she says. “Backstage, women were coming up to me asking, ‘Are you the lady who had the hysterectomy? How are you?’ I was overly tanned and black and blue, but these are my scars – and I’m proud of them.”
By sharing her journey with others, she opened a floodgate of support and community.
"Women are warriors."
“After my hysterectomy, I had a whole group of people who came from nowhere that shared with me that they had had a hysterectomy too. I was getting text messages from some of my teachers sharing their experience,” she says. “I did not realize there was a community called #hystersisters on social media. It helped give me the inspiration and camaraderie to do this. Women are warriors.”
Don’t delay care
Krause wants her story to inspire other women. “Please don't put off your annual checkups. If I had skipped this GYN exam, who knows where I would be,” she says.
As she continues to heal, she plans to get back to competing in 2021 and sharing her story with others. “Reaching out to women has been really rewarding,” Krause says. “This is my story, and if it can help inspire just one woman to go get checked or another to just get out of bed following a hysterectomy, it makes it all worth it.”