Client Spotlight – Dawn Hesse – A True OVERCOMER


I don’t even know where to begin about this amazing woman.  I met Dawn at Barry’s Bootcamp, and I remember her mostly saying “I’m scurrrred” every time she would see me.  (Apparently I have a reputation of being a tough trainer…WHAT?!  Who?!  Me????  🙂 ).  But Dawn eventually faced her fear of me and joined a summer team that we did, and she realized I’m not as bad as she’d heard.  🙂

A little while down the road, I got an email from Dawn asking about training, so I started working with her one on one in addition to all of her classes that she attends. First of all – Dawn deserves 100% of the credit for her transformation.  I told her from the beginning – Dawn, all you have to do is get your eating right, and you’ll be SET.  And that is exactly what she did that really led to her seeing results.  She has always worked out SO hard, and I knew that once she got her eating in line, she would shine.  She started on Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix and it was the thing that she needed to teach her portion size, what and how much she should be eating daily.  This worked for her, for some it’s totally different, but this was a match made in heaven!

Dawn works out harder than almost anyone I know, lifts heavier, doesn’t complain, and always has a goal.  She is one of the most giving, loving, incredible people that I have ever crossed paths with.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with her weekly, going skydiving with her, going to the beach with her, Mike and his family, watching her crush goals, and recently becoming ENGAGED in Italy!!!!  dawn1

To me, Dawn is a HUGE supporter and encourager of all that I do and have done, and I couldn’t be more blessed to call her a friend and a client.  People like her keep me going and keep me believing that I’m on the right path.  Dawn, from the bottom of my heart – thank you.

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All of this awesomeness aside – most people don’t know her STORY, which makes her even more amazing.  You would look at Dawn and think she’s pretty perfect, and she is!  But Dawn has battled a syndrome and insecurity for most of her life…  Everyone who knows Dawn thinks she’s the best, but if you haven’t heard her story – take a few minutes to read it and then you’ll realize what an absolutely incredible woman she truly is!  She proves hands down that you can do ANYTHING you want, no matter what.


Dawn, you are a huge inspiration to me, and I am so thankful for you.  I don’t think you realize how amazing you really are.  I wish you all of the happiness and joy, and the best life ahead with your FIANCE!!  I’m so grateful to be a part of your journey.  I love you FRIEND!!!

Here is Dawn’s story.  I asked her questions, and her answers are below…

Tell me your story…  when/how you realized you were “different.”  What’s the name of your condition and how did you overcome that? 

I knew I was different than all the other girls at a very young age, middle school really.  I was a skinny scrawny girl who had no need or use for a bra.  All my other friends were going in for their first bra and I had to pretend I was to.  Pretend, from that moment on I had to “pretend” a lot, basically until I was 33 I had to pretend to fit in, pretend I needed a bra, pretend I was tough ( I had a tough exterior and soft interior since I was 9) pretend I had confidence, pretend pretend pretend, always being something I wasn’t.  I wasn’t talkative, confident, pretty, athletic none of the above, I couldn’t be, I had a ‘condition” that limited me.  I didn’t know until I was 33 that I had “Poland Syndrome” all I knew was that in gym class when we had to change clothes I was always late, I would purposely be late so no one would see me change into my gym uniform so they wouldn’t “see” me and my deformity.  At this time I was very aware that I had well basically a hole in my chest, it was concave on my left side, I had no need for a bra so again I had to pretend and wear a bra.  As I grew into high school, my desire was to join the swim team, so I did.  the moment I had to put on the team swim suit during our first practice one of the girls said why are you flat on one side, I quit the swim team the next day because I just couldn’t be made fun of.  so that was the end of sports for me.  I never tried out for anything again.  

Because of my deformity I was a shy quiet girl with no self esteem or confidence and certainly no boyfriends.  I breezed thru high school and college with my brains, focused on my studies and that was it, everyday wishing and hoping I could be like other girls, wear pretty dresses, wear a swimsuit and go to the pool like the other kids but I just couldn’t, I was deformed so I put my nose in books and that’s what I was good at, I had few romantic encounters simply out of fear of rejection because I was different.  Then, years later after finally getting a prosthetic device so that I could be somewhat normal and gain a sense of mediocre confidence, I decided to join a group of colleagues at the pool one evening at a work function.  No-one knew I was different, I had years of practice at pretending I was normal.  I jumped in the pool and when I cam up my boss I had my prosthesis in his hand waving it yelling and laughing “someone just lost their boob”  he had no idea it had come from me, I was devastated!!!!!!

He tossed it out of the pool and everyone just laughed having no idea where it came from.  All I could think about was A) how much it cost me and B) how without that prosthesis my clothes for the meeting wouldn’t fit right, I would be lopsided and it would be very noticeable.  I had to find it.  SO I got up in the middle of the night and searched high and low until I found where he had tossed it.  While it was not in the best of shape at least I could fill my bra and my business suit would look normal.  This was the lowest point in my life.  up until this pint, knowing that I had no chance of a romantic relationship, and because of my deformity, food had become my closest friend.  Exercise, what’s that? Food! it made me happy, so I thought…

After the incident at the pool I thought to myself, this is ridiculous.  I am a 30 year old professional woman, I can afford to do something about this.  I so badly wanted to be pretty, wear a swim suit, a spaghetti strap dress or a strapless dress, things I could never wear in fear of revealing my deformity.  SO I called up my best friend, the only one who ever knew anything at all about me, yet she had never seen my deformity, I asked her to meet me at the drs office and see about getting an implant.  I will never forget that day, I was so scared to take off my top, keep in mind I was 30 and no-one had ever seen me naked or topless.  The Dr immediately looked at me and said “Wow, you have Poland syndrome” I said really? I have a syndrome? You mean there’s an explanation for what I have?  I was so excited!!!  I also remember him saying he thought I had one of the most severe cases/deformities that he had ever seen but yes I could be fixed.  I was so happy I could be fixed, and I could finally have a chance to be normal like other girls.

Now, because I was missing nearly all of my chest muscles I couldn’t have a regular implant.  I had to have my abdominal muscles pulled up like a rope wrapped in a circle where they would then attach a special type of implant, one that is not even FDA approved and I now would be a part of a 10 year case study with the FDA to study this type of procedure.  Most women who have implants are able to go in under the muscle, well, I didn’t have a muscle.  At the time, only 2 doctors in the US will even perform this type of implant surgery.  I followed thru and did it.  In the mean time I joined a gym hear in Nashville, ran my first ever race, (a girl who was never picked to be on a team in grade school or had an athletic bone in her body mainly out of fear.  Fear and pretending was what I knew, but I also knew deep down inside I was special I just wasn’t able to be me, something kept me back, it was the fear of being different.)

I lost 23 pounds before I had my reconstructive surgery. I had my surgery in September of 2007 and for the first time in my life I felt as though I was on top of the world, I could finally be the person I always knew I could be.  for the first time I truly felt beautiful, sexy, smart, confident, desirable etc.  All the other things my friends had felt in their late teens and 20’s.  I finally was able to buy a real bra, wear pretty dresses, and tank tops, the simple things.  I worked out everyday, gained strength both physically and mentally rain my first marathon successes in my job and finally had a boyfriend! I was 33!  I had a lot of firsts at 33 my friends had in their 20’s.  I had been set free, all because of a boob! Well…so much more than a boob… just feeling feminine, and having feelings and desires.   

-What part has fitness played in your life and self confidence?

My life has been forever changed because of fitness.  I have a wonderful community of friends, I have traveled places to participate in races and have seen and done things I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  I have a new level of confidence and strength and now know I CAN do this! I have completed 14 half marathons and 1 full marathon. I can lift weights with the best of them even though I am missing major muscles in my chest, most wouldn’t even know.  I’m not fast but I’m not last!  I am living and it feels good.  Fitness has become one of the most important parts of my life, I want to live and be healthy.  My father died at 28 and my mother died at 58, my genes are not in my favor so I must take control of what is within my control and my health is of utmost priority.

-What has been the hardest thing to overcome and your biggest realization along the way?  
The fear of rejection, not being good enough.  My biggest realization is that you must love and respect and accept yourself first.  A person will fail everytime if they seek love, happiness, acceptance from other people to fulfill them.  It has taken me 40 years to realize I am good enough, and worthy and I have learned the hard way you cant be happy until you are happy alone and by yourself.  Love must come from within, as well as respect and acceptance, you must be ok with you and what ever deformities  you may have, or afflictions you may have because we all have them.  no-one is perfect, and the sooner we realize we all have a story the easier it is to not only accept yourself but accept others as well.  Empathy has been the best quality to attain. we all have a cross to bare.

-What advice would you give to people who are looking to make a change?  

Well, I learned from the best ” If it doesn’t challenge you it wont change you”  Change is growth.  I urge everyone to take it one day at a time. You can’t eat an elephant in one setting, one bite at a time.  Every decision counts, every choice matters.  However, the desire for change must come from the deepest part of your soul, and with pure intentions.  You must want change for you and you only.  You must want it only to better yourself to empower yourself and to ultimately do better, be better so you can fulfill Gods plan for you.

-How do you FEEL right now?  

Happiest I have ever been.  I can tell when I haven’t worked out in a few days, because I feel Like I am lacking or missing something in my life.  SO as long as I keep that in check, I get out and do something to raise my endorphins I am able to maintain a health state of mind body and spirit.  I truly am a better person when I do something for me that requires me to challenge myself physically.  

-What are your goals going forward?

I have moved on from wanting to lose weight.  I know I will never be a Victoria secret model, I truly just want to continue to embrace the journey that I am on, continue to be my best, lift heavier, stay in tune with my mind and my body, workout and simply be an inspiration to others.

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Here is a little more information about Poland Syndrome –

Poland syndrome is a disorder in which affected individuals are born with missing or abnormal muscles on one side of the chest wall. Most individuals with Poland syndrome also have abnormalities of the hand, which often involve shortened fingers, partial fusion of the fingers, or both. The hand abnormalities usually affect the same (ipsilateral) side of the body as those of the chest. Poland syndrome affects the right side of the body more often than the left side.

People with Poland syndrome are missing part of one of the major chest muscles, called the pectoralis major. In most affected individuals, the missing part is the large section of the muscle that normally attaches to the upper arm on one side and the breastbone (sternum) on the other. Other abnormalities may occur on the affected side of the torso. In some cases, additional muscles in the chest wall, side, and shoulder are missing or underdeveloped. There may also be rib cage abnormalities, such as shortened ribs, and the ribs may be noticeable due to less fat under the skin (subcutaneous fat). Breast and nipple abnormalities may also occur, and underarm (axillary) hair is sometimes sparse or abnormally placed. In most cases, the abnormalities in the chest area do not cause health problems or affect movement.

5 thoughts on “Client Spotlight – Dawn Hesse – A True OVERCOMER

  1. Dawn is beautiful & amazing! What an inspiration to overcome so much after suffering so long, in so many ways. Wishing her every happiness!!!!

  2. Dawn, you have such a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it! It gives hope and is an inspiration to all who read this!

  3. Dawn, I had no idea. I’m in tears just reading your story. Thank you SO much for sharing. You are beyond beautiful and such an inspiration!

  4. I found this story by googling Poland syndrome. My daughter is 3 and was just recently diagnosed with this as well. Reading this story gives me hope that she will lead a somewhat normal life. As her mom, I of course worry that she will be teased and feel insecure. But thank you for sharing. It’s very inspiring and gives us hope.

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