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ReBUILD: Fitness Fights Cancer

When you start looking up about pancreatic cancer you read statistics. Statistics say: 20 percent of people get to have— get to go into surgery. 10 percent of those get to have the surgery. five percent of those, they’ll take out most of it, and two percent of it they will get all the cancer. At the time I had my surgery, five percent of the people that had surgery would live for another five years. When I hit that five-year marker, I had a new oncologist— I’d seen him for the first time and he says, “I have to tell you, out of all my patients and all patients I inherited, you are my only like you. We are in this together.” And he says, “But you know what five years means, don’t you?” And I said, “It’s a good sign.” And he says, “It is.” Two months later, he had to tell me that my cancer was back. Hey guys are you ready to get started? (Cheering) Come this way. Build is a CrossFit program specifically for cancer survivors. So we have the same methodologies of CrossFit— functional fitness, constantly varied, high intensity, but we focus our programming on the specific needs of cancer survivors.

My husband had been doing CrossFit for a while, and I would hear all the stuff that he was doing and I said, “I just can’t do that.” When this program came it didn’t say “CrossFit”, it said “functional fitness”. I said, “That’s exactly what I need.” And so I came to my first class and Sami said, “Welcome to the first CrossFit class for cancer survivors.” And I’m like, “Oh, wait… This is CrossFit?” Build brings cancer survivors a specific place that they feel comfortable walking in the door, our coaches are trained to understand cancer but also know the CrossFit methodologies.

Pull those feet under your hips, I want your arms straight out, thumbs up, big chest, lean forward slightly and stand up. Yeah, you all just did a squat, right? I was actually working in healthcare and saw a big disparity between sort of the needs of the general populace and the fitness industry. When Sami first approached me to do Build it was a no-brainer. It is this diverse community of people that have sort of historically been underserved by fitness. So it was almost exactly a year ago— like, this week, that I ended up in the ICU and then they diagnosed me with Stage 4-B Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the “easy cancer” and “highly treatable”. The mentality was, “You know, when our patients are in chemotherapy or our patients are in treatment like radiation, we just want them to rest.” And so I was really seeing a lot of referrals where a cancer survivor was two, three, four years down the road, they were going back to their oncologist and saying, “Why do I not feel like myself?” I was 89 pounds when I met her first and she would— I was so weak that she had to work with me I’m just standing up properly.

She was probably the first one where I was almost like, “Guys, I don’t think this is a good idea.” And so, when I got there they were so awesome though because I didn’t feel like I was smaller than anybody else. I knew that I had to build muscle, but I didn’t feel any less than. It was great. After my Whipple surgery I asked the doctor if I could exercise, and he immediately thought of weightlifting and he says, “You can’t lift anything more than two pounds.” I found out that a t-shirt weighs almost a pound, you can’t lift more than two t-shirts. Exercise, in my opinion is the pixie dust for cancer survivors because so many of the treatments lead to functional de-conditioning, more sedentary behavior…

And so exercise is really important for those survivors. My husband’s reaction when I came home from that class was “You’re going next week, aren’t you?” He says, “If you’re not going, I’m taking you.” He could see a difference in me in one night. Sami and I clicked right away, (Laughing) and she told me about this program. But I started in the second session, and I’m blessed to have a boss that is actually a CrossFitter. So she was like, “Absolutely, go!” I need to be lifting heavy things… Like legitimately heavy things. I have my husband to thank for one of that, he pushed me in class one day.

He said, “You can totally lift this…” I had a bump on my neck. They called me, and come back and lets me know that, you know, “Hey, you’ve got cancer.” To this point and day, I don’t ever think I was sick. I don’t want to think about that anymore because it’s a part of my life that’s gone, and it doesn’t need to be here with me anymore. And my part of my life is, I’m looking to get stronger, help myself with my wife get stronger.

People tell you, “You can’t do this.” And so then anytime that you’re presented a challenge the first thing you say is, “I can’t. I can’t do that.” You’ve got to get all that stuff flushed out of your head and feel good about yourself, start building the muscle and feel strong. (Yeah!) (Cheering) The number one side effect for cancer survivors is fatigue. And, this is fatigue that you can’t sleep out of, you can’t nutritionally make changes… It just— it’s fatigue. And the only thing that we know that turns that fatigue around is exercise. But now he’s gonna follow you. I started riding him in sixth grade, so he’s literally been there for me with every single thing. He’s my best friend. Couldn’t do without him. I don’t think I could have done any of— everything that I’m doing now— I don’t think I could have done that before I was sick.

So I would say I’m stronger now than I have ever been in my entire life. I have completely changed my body composition since I’ve been here, since January. It’s everything. This class is amazing. And you know, we don’t even have to share our stories. Um.. It’s just there. I like that the members of our gym can see people from Build and you know, be a part of that. And so I think that having our membership be a part of a larger mission is really really important. And I think Build fits into that really nicely. Cancer doesn’t affect you just physically, it affects you emotionally because it steals from you. It takes your energy, it takes your image and it eats up your life. And even if you not knock it. It’s not gone. The fear that it’s coming again it’s always there. Always there. When you’re at Build, you don’t think about that fear.

You think about the next lift, and counting out how many you doing. You’re focused on what you’re doing. You have a different image of yourself because of cancer. It’s destroyed a part of your body. It’s destroyed a part of you. So Build helps to return that. It gives you control. You can say, “I’m fighting this cancer. If I can do Build, I can fight this cancer.” Vikki we’re putting some 45s on that! Add those up, baby! Ha! That’s what I’m saying, we’re putting the big weights on next time! Do you hear her? “Add those up, baby.” .

As found on Youtube

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