A woman deadlifting weights

Working Out and Lung Cancer

Before my lung cancer diagnosis, I was working out, fit, healthy, and felt like a million bucks. I never thought that at the age of 45 I would feel better than I did when I was younger. But that was all because of CrossFit.

Working out and lung cancer

I joined the CrossFit cult in 2013. When I first started, it was very intimidating. I remember walking in and saying, “Oh my god, what did I get myself into?”

The CrossFit warm-up and Workout of the Day

I had two 60-year-old sisters helping me with the warm-up. That was brutal. Then we got ready to do the WOD, which stands for Workout of the Day. I remember using a box for step-ups, I think a kettlebell for kettlebell swings, and a lifting bar to do push presses.

My friend that owned the CrossFit told me, “Juanita, follow what’s on the board, and repeat each exercise until the timer stops.” I think it was about 10 or 15 minutes of repeating reps, and once that timer stopped, I was beat. I don’t know how I survived it, but I did it. After that, I was hooked!

Preparing for the lung cancer fight

Little did I know, CrossFit was preparing me for the biggest fight of my life. I joined in February 2013, and by December, I was in the best shape of my life. 2014 arrived, and I decided to get certified so I could help my friend coach at her CrossFit place. I got my certification and started coaching her 5 am classes 3 times a week.

But in June of 2014 I started wheezing, then in September I had to go see my doctor because I developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. By November it was so bad I ended up in the ER. They did a CT scan and was admitted. Following day I had a bronchoscopy done and two days later I was diagnosed with stage 3B NSCLC.

Working out gave me the body and mindset I needed to get through chemo for lung cancer

I remember my oncologist telling me that I was her only patient that was very fit and healthy and I should tolerate chemo and radiation pretty well. She was right, the only side effects I had with chemo was fatigue and not wanting to eat and with radiation just fatigue. But that didn’t stop me from working out.

I would continue to workout in between my chemo treatments. Of course, I waited to gain some strength. But working out during my lung cancer chemo treatments really helped me physical and mentally. I was still weak and tired but I pushed right through it because I was determined not to give up!

Finding the right balance

Once I was done with chemo and started to regain my strength I started to go back everyday. And then I started to coach my 5 am classes. Before I knew it I was lifting heavy again and doing those WODs like they were nothing. I also continued to stay on the Paleo diet, but I also ate what I wanted.

When you're diagnosed with a life threatening illness you just say, “The hell with it!” I’m going to enjoy my life and eat whatever I want - but in moderation, of course. We still need to eat healthy and eat foods that will help us stay healthy. It’s ok to have a cheat day or two, I know I do. Don’t deprive yourself from foods you love, It’s ok to indulge every now and then but in moderation.

I know when to take breaks!

I still exercise in my garage with a friend. I can’t lift heavy anymore but I can still lift a bar with some light bumper plates on them. I usually take a break during the winter, but comes March or April I start to workout again. I don’t follow the Paleo diet as much, but I do for the most part eat healthy and eat carbs in moderation. I pretty much cut off 90% of sweets and sugar but trust me - I will eat a piece of cake in a heartbeat. My target therapy has caused me a lot of weight gain, so eating in portions and getting active again should help me with my weight gain.

It’s ok to take a break or get a little lazy from working out, but don’t stay there too long. I truly believe exercising and eating right does help us in our lung cancer journey. I know it continues to help me so much!

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