Mercedes Gallup

Posted on Oct 5, 2012 in People | Comments Off

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Circus Girl Magazine would like to take the opportunity to celebrate Circus Girls everywhere by sharing their stories in hopes of inspiring others. That being said, I can honestly say that there are few women in the world who truly “inspire” me and one of those few happens to be Circus Girl Mercedes Gallup.

Mercedes is the Nursing and Clinical Support Unit Supervisor at the Klotz Student Health Center in Northridge, CA. She fell in love with the circus over a decade ago and has not only been able to excel in her career in nursing but become an accomplished circus performer as well. When Mercedes was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, this brave Circus Girl stayed true to our famous circus quote “The show must go on”!

We ask Mercedes about her life in circus and how it helps her cope with being a Breast Cancer survivor.

Mercedes uses her Bungee Trapeze to help her recover from her battle with Breast Cancer. Photograph by Richie Gaona

CGM: Mercedes, how long have you been involved in circus arts?
Mercedes: I have been doing circus arts for about 13 years. I was a late starter, I wish I had discovered it 20 years earlier… I would have definitely ran away with the circus! I’ve been able to do some TV and film work over the years, as well as some guest performances for Ramos Brothers Circus and Circus Vargas.

CGM: Where do you do your circus training?
Mercedes: I have been training flying and bungee trapeze with Richie Gaona in Woodland Hills since starting 13 years ago. I have been teaching bungee trapeze for close to 4 years and some of my students are currently performing bungees in circuses. Not only did I fall in love with trapeze, but Richie and I fell in love 7 years ago.

CGM: How is it like balancing your career in nursing with your circus training?
Mercedes: I am an RN with a Board Certification in College Health and work as Nursing Supervisor at a large University Student Health Center. I love my nursing job and have worked my trapeze and circus life into it. I have a 4-day work week with 2 months off during the summer to be able to train and teach throughout the year so my circus arts have been well supported at my job and by the University. It’s really the perfect work/life balance.

Mercedes (center) trained performers on Circus Vargas for their Bungee Trapeze act. Photograph by Darin Basile

CGM: When were you diagnosed with Breast Cancer?
Mercedes: I was diagnosed with breast cancer March of this year after finding a lump in my breast and having a subsequent lumpectomy. With a history of 6 previous benign tumors removed over 20 years, and after a triple lumpectomy that showed some atypical cells 10 years ago, I was higher risk for the diagnosis. I had been vigilant about my mammograms, but my cancer went undetected by mammograms for probably a decade. I cannot say enough about doing breast self-exams every month!

CGM: How did you tell your loved ones and what was their reaction to the news?
Mercedes: Even though I had prepared myself for this diagnosis for a long time, the news was devastating and scary… you can never be fully prepared, you just never know which way it will go and there are a lot of unknowns. Richie and my daughter, Koyaana, were brave and supportive. They have carried me through every step. Everyone has been amazingly supportive and kind.

Mercedes fulfilling a lifelong dream of taking her daughter, Koyaana, to Paris, France, 2 months after her surgery.

CGM: What is your recovery like?
Mercedes: I made the decision years ago that if I got breast cancer I would choose a double mastectomy. That was the easy part and I feel that I got off lucky. Recovery is a process, messy and difficult, and you just get through it. I’m still getting through it. You stay positive, move forward, always.

CGM: Do you plan to return to your circus training?
Mercedes: Yes! I hope to fly [on the] trapeze again and get back in the air, it’s what I am striving for. It is my goal and I have made it my surgeon’s goal. I have been able to do bungee trapeze on a modified level for now. Having my feet off the ground is paramount to my recovery.

CGM: What would you like to tell our readers who may be going through what you recently went through?
Mercedes: First, do breast self-exams all time. It may save your life. Second, aerialists are beautiful, strong & tough (physically & mentally) and those are qualities that can help you face any challenge in life; in or outside the ring.

And always style & smile. ■

Check out this video for more about Mercedes Gallup as a Nurse and performing for Circus Vargas!