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“Breast Cancer Saved my Life.”

Meet RF Warrior Karen. For Karen, the decision to create a healthier lifestyle came after being diagnosed with breast cancer. In this Warrior blog, Karen shares how her diagnosis not only changed her life entirely but SAVED it. Meet Karen and be inspired to start prioritizing your health today to live healthy, happy and strong for life!


Life Before Results Fitness

After living 27 years in the Chicago suburbs, raising three unique and talented children and working as an adolescent mental health social worker, life’s next adventure had my husband and I returning to Northeast Ohio. Not only would this be a huge change geographically, but we were also preparing to downsize and become empty nesters. We were excited to be “home” and looking forward to living directly across the street from Lake Erie. Ahhhh, the lake life, what a dream! Did I mention 30 wineries in the Grand River Valley Region?!  

Throughout my adult life, I always wanted to be thin but never dieted. Instead, I ate and drank what I wanted, in the quantity I wanted, and my weight reflected these decisions and lifestyle. Following the births of each child and with every passing year, my weight crept up to an unhealthy number. Even without eating fast food, I struggled with sticking to a healthy eating routine. For me, emotional eating played heavily into my late-night eating binges and my snacking was out of control.  

When it came to exercising, I have tried it all over the years from being a member of expensive hospital health and wellness centers, to local rec centers and the YMCA. I was also a novice cyclist and with the exception of cycling and aqua aerobics, normally worked out alone. Typically, my go to exercise routine consisted of the weight machines. Based on how I was feeling that day and what my body would allow, I would rotate through a few machines then end on the elliptical for 20-45 minutes. I did not really know what I was doing, and with the exception of an initial assessment, never invested in working with a personal trainer.

Did I get any results or make progress exercising on my own? Aside from trying to increase the number of reps or weight being used, I never saw many physical results but always felt good mentally. Plus, my gym routines were always interrupted by some medical issue; all of which sidelined me for a period of time. Once able, I’d go back to doing the same routine, lacking any personal accountability.

Then, unexpectedly and out of nowhere, everything in my life changed forever.

I would have continued on this unhealthy path had I not heard the words, “You have invasive ductal carcinoma”. This is a type of breast cancer that can quickly spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. However, if diagnosed early and treated, this cancer has a high survival rate. For me, this is why October is not only breast cancer awareness month, but also breast health awareness: early detection is key🎀!

Being diagnosed with cancer is nothing like I’d ever experience or imagined. Instinctively, I went on autopilot; following everything the oncologists and surgeons recommended including surgery, radiation (see below) and estrogen blockers.

If you aren’t familiar (and I hope some of you haven’t been touched by cancer in any way), cancer is a disease with life long lasting effects physically, mentally and emotionally. Unfortunately, I was one of the unlucky patients with ongoing and severe side effects from the medication. For several years, I struggled with debilitating joint pain. My body could not tolerate the medication and everyday life became increasingly painful and hard. Exercise? Fuck no! I could not even put my feet on the floor without experiencing pain.

It was clear my body could no longer tolerate the estrogen blockers. Though the estrogen blockers were an important part of my treatment to prevent the cancer from reoccurring, I had reached my breaking point mentally and physically. I was faced with choosing either quality of life with a slightly increased risk of the cancer returning or, live a very poor quality, restrictive life and deal with debilitating, daily pain forever. 

This decision changed my life forever. It was this moment I realized and accepted my next battle and challenge would soon begin. It was now time for the “real” work – a total overhaul of ME: my lifestyle and unhealthy habits.


Breast Cancer Saved My Life

As I shared, a cancer diagnosis has compounding and lifelong effects well after treatment and even while in remission. After completing treatment, I was diagnosed with multiple other diseases and health issues including:

  • Familial hypercholesterolemia: defect on the 19th chromosome which does not allow your body to properly eliminate the low-density lipoprotein or LDL

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

  • Chronic kidney disease: my live is only functioning at 30%

Between the side effects from the estrogen blockers, a pending diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and excess weight, every joint in my body hurt! My cardiologist, oncologist, hematologist (liver), nephrologist (kidney), rheumatologist, and primary care doctor collectively ALL suggested the obvious: I needed to lose weight. My cardiologist also prescribed a statin since my cholesterol was off the charts!

The first step in my weight loss process was diet. Though used to eating anything I wanted, this was going to change. With my doctors, I reviewed all the available diets on the market. Their advice? Pick and follow any “diet” I was willing to maintain for the REST of my life.

Ahh….the old lifestyle change conversation! Only this time, the word LIFE was MORE meaningful. I was committed to doing this for myself and anxious to gain back quality of life so, I got to work. What followed was serious dedication and focus to listening to my specialists, developing better eating habits, adding healthy, nutritious foods to my diet and learning how food impacts our mental, emotional and physical health. At the recommendation of my specialists given my cancer diagnosis / history, my husband and I decided to eliminate refined sugar, gluten and dairy.

Did I bitch every single day for a year while I adjusting to not stuffing my face with my favorites like Twizzlers and anything else resembling a pastry out of habit? Absolutely!

Fast forward four years, and we continue maintaining those habits and feeling better than ever before!

 How Life Has Forever Changed

The four years following my diagnosis, I had fought to live. No matter how cliché it sounds, THIS was the time I needed to make a commitment and invest in my physical and mental well-being.  Even after losing 50+ pounds by adapting healthier eating habits, I was not accepting this was as good as I was going to feel. I knew that I had to become more active again. That mindset led me to the next step in my weight loss process: exercise.

Personally, I wanted to find more than a gym. I wanted a “gym home” where I would feel comfortable, challenged and most of all, motivated enough to continue attending. In February 2022, I finally decided to hold myself even more accountable for my health.  Four years to the date after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I attended a FREE strategy session at Results Fitness and met with Jenna.

Exercise was the remaining lifestyle piece I needed to concentrate on. After the cancer diagnosis and subsequent health issues, I was concerned my physical limitations would hinder an effective workout. Jenna assured me all Results Fitness Warriors (members) are on their own path and encouraged me to give it all a shot.

Walking into Results Fitness for the first time, I was only interested in 1:1 Personal Training knowing I would not feel comfortable in any group setting. I started with 1:1 Personal Training sessions once/week with the simple goal to become stronger. Having lost so much strength the previous years, I needed the individualized supervision and training working with a coach.

In the beginning, I was performing the exercises with just my own body weight. With understanding and compassion, the Results Fitness coaches provided modifications so I could learn the basics and be safely challenged within limitations. With their knowledge and encouragement, I was gaining strength and coordination.

Before Results Fitness, I felt intimidated by any type of group fitness/class. This fear alone had me convinced my experience at Results Fitness would be limited to 1:1 Personal Training only. BUT…..here I am, 8 months later showing up to not only 1:1 Personal Training, but Small Group Personal Training as well! And, I am LOVING it all! For me, Personal Training provides the time to learn and understand all the movements and exercises plus, modifications for the exercises presented in the Small Group Personal Training Sessions.

Today, I have added weights to all exercises. I find myself in less pain doing daily chores; which I credit to 1:1 AND Small Group Personal Training Sessions at Results Fitness! Chores I previously needed others to do for me, I can now do for myself! I see, but more importantly FEEL myself getting stronger month after month. 

Since first stating at Results Fitness, I feel more confident and more energized. I am experiencing less and less muscle and joint pain the more AND MORE I move! When attending my Small Group Personal Training Sessions, the younger individuals unknowingly motivate me; they are so smart! Those that are older, inspire me! I want to reach their age and be moving like them! 

 

 

I do not mean to preach to anyone. I just want to share what I have learned since starting and encourage everyone to consider investing in their own physical, emotional and mental health by changing their unhealthy habits.

My biggest regret in life is NOT prioritizing physical activity/exercise throughout my lifetime sooner.

Admittedly, it wasn’t easy getting started. It’s a longer commute, I wasn’t sure what to expect, there was self-doubt and hey, it’s not always easy being the “new kid’. The last four years were hard and though I needed it, wasn’t sure how and what my body was capable of anymore having gone through surgery, radiation and medications.

If you are considering a lifestyle change, I encourage and welcome you to give Results Fitness a try. Starting is the hardest part but the Results Fitness team and members will keep you coming back! The coaches and staff are all encouraging, and you truly feel they are behind you! 

But what kept and keeps me motivated is LIFE. How can I NOT do what is IN my control? So much of the cancer journey is out of your control so, I continue eating healthy and, now that I found Results Fitness, am exercising regularly. 


Help Kick Cancer’s A$$!

First…A HUGE THANK YOU to the RESULTS FITNESS WARRIORS FOR ALL THEIR HARD WORK AND DEDICATION TO SUPPORT THE GATHERING PLACE. I personally have utilized their services in the past and am forever grateful that this loving, compassionate organization exists for local cancer patients and their caregivers. If you are not familiar with The Gathering Place, they provide free programs, services and resources to not only cancer patients but to families as well. This is not limited to breast cancer but includes any cancer diagnosis.

Every October, Results Fitness hosts a month-long fundraiser supporting The Gathering Place called No Rest for the Breasts to generate greatly needed financial resources to support all initiatives at The Gathering Place. For every workout completed, Results Fitness donates $.25.

Since 2018, the RF community has raised over $33,000 and the 2023 goal is another $18,000! If you would like to make a donation, please visit the link below. Thank you in advance for your generosity and kindness.

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