Cancer at 34 Part 6: Cross Fit and Tenacity

Cross Fit became a regular part of my life in April 2016 when I moved to Pittsburgh. My girlfriend at the time encouraged me to give it a try, and I liked having something we could do together. I was an occasional runner and had done some exercise machine workouts before, but nothing as intense as Cross Fit. I completed the on-ramp program and started working out at Industrial Athletics. The coaches and other athletes were all very helpful and supportive. I was very slow and very weak, but I learned a lot! I completed a half-Murph workout there, which was a huge accomplishment and really boosted my confidence.

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Cross Fit Blue Ash – Photo courtesy of Blake Evans

After I moved back to Cincinnati in July 2016, I knew I wanted to continue with Cross Fit because it had so many benefits and pushed me to my limits. I dropped in to a few nearby gyms before settling on Cross Fit Blue Ash. It was a convenient location, with lots of classes that fit my schedule. The members and coaches were all very welcoming as well. In addition, all the coaches have been patient as I continue to learn – especially Dr. Bob and Ali. Blake, the owner of Cross Fit Blue Ash, went out of his way to get to know me better. We come from different backgrounds, but share a common interest in Cross Fit. Through my workouts and the annual holiday party, I also came to know some of the other athletes too.

Since my diagnosis in December 2016, Cross Fit Blue Ash has become especially important to me as a way to hold on to some part of my previous life and organize my new one. In addition, the workouts give me structure, stimulate my motivation, and require a lot of physical effort. It feels great to focus entirely on the workout and be exhausted at the end of it. However, it’s getting harder and harder to do the workouts, and I usually don’t even finish them any more. I’m fatigued every day, and the WOD always kicks my ass. All I can do any more is show up three days a week and do the best I can.

Even before my diagnosis, I was never particularly strong or fast. It’s very frustrating to feel like I’m back sliding so quickly, although I know it’s due to a combination of fatigue, the drugs, and self-doubt. Rule #9 at the box is to leave your ego at the door, which I try and accommodate, although it’s not always easy. I appreciate it when other athletes congratulate me after a workout, no matter how slow I am.

Recently, I haven’t been writing much (which I’ll discuss in another rapid-fire blog post), but another athlete at Cross Fit Blue Ash reached out in a totally unexpected way that prompted me to resume. I slowly realized that the box had become as much a part of my support network as my friends, family, and church. Now I’m correcting that oversight and providing recognition to all the people who deserve it.

I recently signed up for the 2017 Cross Fit Open. I’ve never really competed in anything like that before, and I was hesitant because I didn’t really want to embarrass myself. I felt like I wouldn’t get much out of it other than to pay $20 for the privilege of looking like a weakling. I’ve been trying to be more bold, but I’m not perfect. After another athlete reached out, I decided that I had to participate in the 2017 open.

Steve and I don’t know each other that well, although we are both 34 years old. He’s the captain of the “Dancing Pandas” team at CFBA for the 2017 open. He heard about my diagnosis and printed some wrist bands so that the rest of the team and others could show some support. His kindness amazed me.

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Another shock came when Blake, the owner of CFBA, told me that I inspire him! I was pretty sure the inspiration flowed in the opposite direction, because I have never been quick or tough. I never expected to galvanize anybody when it came to physical fitness, let alone the owner of the gym where I workout! However, I begrudgingly admit that my tenacity is inspirational.

However, it looks like my attempt at the 2017 Cross Open will face an immediate obstacle. I’m scheduled for surgery to try and restore my paralyzed vocal cord on February 17, 2017. The doctor ordered no strenuous physical activity (that includes Cross Fit) for at least 5 days. The first WOD for the 2017 Open will be released on February 23rd. It looks like the odds will be stacked against me, especially at the start. But I’ll close with one of my Dad’s favorite quotes from Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back – “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

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