Lindy Cellucci says she never would have found the lump if she hadn't lost the first 82 lbs.

Lindy Cellucci spent most of her adult life overweight — after she had her two kids, “I forgot about me,” says the retired kindergarten teacher.

From the time she was in her early 30s to age 55, Cellucci “went all in” on taking care of her family and let herself — and her eating habits — suffer.

“I’d grab an ice cream sandwich for breakfast because I was busy getting the kids ready for school, and then I’d graze all day on just garbage food,” she tells PEOPLE for the 2020 Half Their Size issue.

Cellucci hit her highest weight, 299 lbs., in her forties and stayed at that weight for about eight years, until a trip out to the east coast of Canada with her best friends in August 2014.

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Half Their Size, streaming now on, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device

“It became glaringly obvious that I couldn’t keep up with them,” she says. “There’s this place called Hopewell Rocks that goes down to the ocean floor, but you have to go down about 500 steps. I stood there and knew I couldn’t do it.”

Lindy Cellucci
Lindy Cellucci
| Credit: Courtesy Lindy Cellucci

“I could see them laughing and taking, and I’m up top and I said two words to myself: ‘It’s time.’ ”

Cellucci started by cleaning out her kitchen and getting rid of processed foods, and looked up recipes online that she could tweak with healthy ingredients. She also got a Fitbit that Christmas and started competing with her friends to see who could hit the most steps each day.

A year and a half after that trip, Cellucci was down 82 lbs. and doing well. But one day that winter, the Toronto native returned home and put her hands under her armpits for warmth.

“And because I had lost weight, I could feel the lump,” she says. “I knew.”

For more on Lindy and five other women who changed their life to get healthy, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

Half Their Size

She was quickly diagnosed with stage 2A breast cancer, and started on six months of chemotherapy, followed by 31 radiation treatments and a lumpectomy.

“What I didn’t realize is when you go on chemotherapy they give you massive doses of steroids,” she says. “And so with the steroids, I gained back almost all of the weight.”

In Jan. 2017, about one year after her diagnosis, Cellucci thankfully got the all-clear — her breast cancer was gone and she could get back to the healthy lifestyle that had become so important to her.

Cellucci started walking again, building back up to 30,000 steps a day, and now rotates between Zumba, boot camp or aqua swim classes. And she quickly lost the weight, and more, again.

Lindy Cellucci
Lindy Cellucci
| Credit: Kat Borchart

“I lost weight every week for a full year,” she says. “I was just determined. If I put a bit on, which happened a couple of times after that first year, I didn’t let it derail me. You’re going to have ups and downs.”

Cellucci, now 60, hit 150 lbs. down in October, and credits her life to losing weight.

“I never would have found that lump if I hadn’t lost weight,” she says. “It saved my life twice. It saved me from having a heart attack, and it saved me because I found that lump.”

“It’s the best gift I’ve ever given myself,” she says. “My family is so proud.”