Surviving and Thriving: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are sharing an inspiring story from one of our members. Joan D. is a professor and directs a master’s program in international development at Brandeis University. Her nickname at Healthworks is ‘The Crusher’.

The first thing that I did when I moved to Boston from New York two years ago was signed up at Healthworks. I loved the idea that it was an all women’s club and that it supported the community through activities like free self-defense sessions for women.

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But joining was more than finding a simpatico place to work out. For me, as a breast cancer survivor (36 years and counting), staying fit is literally my life. My first activity after surgery and a year of chemo was a walk in Central Park.

I was so weak then that I had to get a ride home – couldn’t finish the walk! I’m nothing if not persistent, though, and after that sobering episode I swam and ran on a regular basis until I regained my strength. I especially loved running and still do for the freedom and exhilaration it can produce.

Every time I go back to New York I run around the reservoir in Central Park, twice! It’s a great way to celebrate being alive, and remember – just for a short while –when I couldn’t even walk that route.

So I came to Healthworks in good shape but ready for some new challenges. First off I met Jeff Cameron, who has worked with me on strength training in his low-key but deadly effective way. Then I met the inimitable Swan Lyon and started Pilates classes. Slowly I got stronger (can leg press 140 pounds!) and more flexible (can bend in ways I never could). Pilates has definitely helped me to overcome a perpetually stiff shoulder and limited arm mobility on one side – a leftover from the cancer surgery all those decades ago.

To cap it all off I started Team Train with Swan and Mike McKinney over the summer. Those training sessions have helped me to build stamina, strength, and balance through floor exercises, interval training, and some great outdoor work. Our team ran a 5k Mudderella race in July and we just did a 3k ‘Tuff Scramblers’ race. (OK, I did break a bone in my foot but it was worth it.)

The races were crazy, muddy and fun. Best of all, my trainers and teammates are the most accomplished, caring and team-spirited people one could ever meet. I love being part of our team.

Oh, and by the way I’m going to be 70 years old next year.

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