"Don't give up! Don't ever give up!" - Jim Valvano

December 03 2013
December 03 2013

By

You deserve to have a strong, flexible, healthy body. If your fitness has declined because life has gotten in the way, whether it be the demands of a busy family, a crazy work schedule, or illness and/or surgery, I want you to know that you can come back from that, stronger than ever. I want you to know that whether you have never been into sports, exercise, or the latest fitness craze, you can and will feel stronger, look leaner, and live comfortably in your own body. I want you to know that I have been there and I have fought my way back, and I want to share with you how to do it. And you can do it! All you need are two things: determination, and a plan.

My plan is Pilates. I have always loved exercise for lots of reasons: the camaraderie at the gym; the joy of running outside on a beautiful day; the satisfaction of making it through a challenging series, like Cross Fit or P90X. I could always count on my body to meet the demands of a good workout, as long as I stuck with my plan, and I never gave up.

Then, my plan took a detour. Four years ago I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. I found out it was aggressive and fast moving. I also found out I was one of the 5% who carried the gene. Treatment would be comprehensive, including chemo, radiation, and multiple major surgeries. I tried my hardest to stay fit during treatment despite the debilitating nausea, bone pain and fatigue. If I couldn’t run, I would walk. If I couldn’t walk, I would stretch. I pushed myself to regain strength and flexibility after 6 surgeries over 2 years.

But what I failed to realize was that my body had changed. My mind was willing, but my body became progressively weaker. After my reconstructive surgery, 14 months after my diagnosis, I could barely walk. Getting out of bed was a challenge. No more Boot Camp for me! A light bulb went off in my head: this is what it feels to age badly. I never wanted to feel this again, so I vowed then and there that I would fight my way back to fitness, no matter what.

I jumped into my old routines and I tried some new ones. But, as I said, my body had changed. My baseline level of fitness was now zero, but I kept trying to jump back into challenging workouts. The result?  I ended up tearing meniscus in both my knees and had to have bilateral knee surgery to repair the damage. I strained my back. Whenever I challenged my core too much, I went into painful, deep abdominal muscle spasms that could last up to 15 minutes. I looked for a movement professional who understood the toll that a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction had taken on my abdominal, chest and shoulder muscles, but could find no one. It was time to come up with a new plan.

Then, last spring I attended a Pilates class that was a breast cancer fundraiser. I had a blast, and I thought to myself, “How awesome would this be to have a job as a Pilates teacher?” And then I thought, “Why can’t I be a Pilates teacher?” Another light bulb went off. A new plan formed in my mind: I would become a Pilates teacher and help women who were breast cancer survivors regain strength.


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