Board Member Spotlight: Callie Jubran

Callie Jubran, Survivor Fitness Board Member

Everyone who is involved with Survivor Fitness — our partners, donors, and board members — has a unique source of inspiration for supporting cancer survivors through our program. Some are moved by seeing participants discover a new way of living after treatment. For others, the connection is even more personal. 

Callie Jubran joined the Survivor Fitness board of directors in 2023. A native of Knoxville, Callie and her husband have supported the organization and participated in events for years. But after her father passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2018, Callie found a new source of inspiration for getting involved. 

“I knew Survivor Fitness was the type of organization my dad would have absolutely loved,” Callie said. “He was extremely conscious about his health and held nutrition and exercise as a high priority even through his battle with pancreatic cancer.” 

Callie felt that being part of the Survivor Fitness community was a meaningful way to honor her dad and give back to others diagnosed with cancer. After watching her dad navigate the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of cancer and treatment, Callie recognized how devastating a diagnosis can be. 

“I know firsthand how the fight can affect your body long term,” she said. “However, it is not just the physical effects; the emotional impact goes hand in hand. Learning how to live again can often be difficult.”

Callie firmly believes that the program’s holistic approach, addressing the physical, nutritional, and emotional aspects, is what sets Survivor Fitness apart and makes it so impactful. 

“Survivor Fitness helps participants rebuild physically, nutritionally, and emotionally,” Callie highlighted. “Hearing stories and seeing participants thrive because of the stepping stones Survivor Fitness helped lay down is exciting.”

As Survivor Fitness continues to grow and reach survivors far and wide, Callie is filled with anticipation for the positive changes it will bring to the lives of countless individuals across the country. 

“Survivor Fitness started small, and each year it has grown exponentially,” she shared. “Now it is reaching survivors near and far.”

While the potential impact energizes Callie to share our mission with as many people as possible, it’s her personal connection and source of inspiration that is most meaningful to her. She feels privileged to be part of an organization that honors her father’s legacy and is dedicated to supporting those who face the challenges of cancer head-on. 

“I am thankful to be able to be a part of a cause that I know my dad would be proud of,” she shared. “Unfortunately, each of us is touched by cancer in some way. Knowing that I am participating in an organization that is working hard to wrap its arms around the people who have to fight this ugly disease is very rewarding.”  

The Mental, Emotional, & Relational Benefits of Physical Activity After Cancer

kettlebells in pink, light blue, and lime green

Life after cancer can be a challenging phase for survivors. While the physical battle of treatment has subsided, the physical side effects, emotional toll, and mental impact can linger long after the last oncology appointment. One of the most meaningful results of our personalized training program is watching cancer survivors recover their physical, mental, and emotional well-being

After working alongside hundreds of Survivor Fitness participants through 15,000+ training sessions, we’ve seen the life-changing difference that committing to wellness can make for cancer survivors. In this blog post, we wanted to highlight the evidence for how engaging in physical activities can profoundly benefit cancer survivors, not only in terms of their physical health, but also mentally, emotionally, and relationally. 

Here are a few specific ways that physical activity supports the overall restoration and well-being of cancer survivors — along with a few real-world examples from Survivor Fitness participants: 

1. Physical Activity Nurtures Mental Strength & Well-Being

A cancer diagnosis and treatment can have a profound mental toll on a survivor. There are so many times throughout the battle with cancer when people can feel out of control, afraid, and isolated. Engaging in fitness activities provides a renewed sense of control, empowering survivors to reclaim their bodies and minds. Physical exercise also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood-boosting chemicals, which can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

We’ve seen countless examples where fitness helps survivors develop mental resilience, fostering a positive outlook and improving self-esteem. Here are just a few examples: 

  • Denise Jones — After battling breast cancer twice, Denise was physically and mentally exhausted. But after completing the program, she can say that she has won the mental battle with cancer. Fear and uncertainty can still arise, but she is better prepared to handle them and use her worries as motivation to encourage others.  
  • Maheen — “I feel so much stronger mentally and physically. I feel like I’ve been able to regain control back over my life.” — That’s how Maheen described her new reality after establishing a new workout routine with Survivor Fitness. 

2. Physical Activity Restores Emotional Capacity & Self Worth

After cancer treatment, some individuals can feel anxious, depressed, or disconnected from their bodies. For many Survivor Fitness participants, exercise can be an outlet for processing emotions, reducing stress, and promoting emotional equilibrium. 

It’s amazing to see how one-on-one training sessions allow survivors to focus on their bodies, thoughts, and feelings in the present moment. Daily movement can also provide a healthy way for processing what has happened and for understanding it better. Engaging in fitness over the course of the program also fosters a sense of accomplishment, boosting self-confidence, and enabling survivors to find joy and purpose in their daily lives. Here are a few testimonials from cancer survivors about the emotional benefits of fitness: 

  • Suzanne Gaulden — There were many days when Suzanne felt like she had to “hold things together” through treatment. Through Survivor Fitness, she found strength and motivation by showing up — just as she was, with whatever she had to offer that day. 
  • Shawyn King — Because of the way treatment impacted her body, Shawyn could barely walk up the eight steps that led to the training facility, leaving her discouraged and frustrated. Today, she is s able to run those stairs like “Rocky” and still benefits from the encouragement and support of her trainers.

3. Physical Activity Strengthens Relationships In New Ways

Cancer survivors often receive a lot of encouragement and support while undergoing treatment. After cancer treatment, survivors may experience a sense of isolation, as their social dynamics shift. At Survivor Fitness, our program creates a unique opportunity to connect with others through physical activity who share similar experiences, forming a supportive community. Sharing their journey with others who have faced similar challenges can provide a deep sense of validation and understanding, fostering meaningful relationships that aid in the healing process. 

Many times, we’ve seen how investing in physical activity and recovery creates opportunities for cancer survivors to give back and engage their other relationships in new ways. Here are a few of our favorite success stories that highlight the power of restored relationships:  

  • Shaundra Kee — As a young mother who enjoyed working out, Shaundra was devastated by the effect cancer treatment had on her body. Today, being able to ride bikes and play at the park with her daughter are two of her favorite activities. 
  • Natasha Leeth — After treatment, Natasha was committed to looking for new ways to move forward. Through the program, Natasha was able to regain strength that allowed her to carry her grandchild again, as well as care for her son after an injury. 

Survivor Fitness: A Holistic Recovery Program after Cancer

For cancer survivors, the path to recovery extends beyond the physical realm. At Survivor Fitness, we’ve seen how a holistic and personalized approach to physical training becomes a transformative tool, allowing survivors to regain control, rebuild emotional well-being, foster supportive relationships, and rediscover their physical strength. By embracing fitness, survivors can embark on a journey of healing that encompasses the mind, body, and soul.

If you’re a cancer survivor or know someone who might be interested in focusing on health and wellness after treatment, learn more about our approach or sign up for our 12-week program today. 

Participant Spotlight: Nancy Lopez

Nancy Lopez, Survivor Fitness Participant

A cancer diagnosis and treatment can be a roller coaster experience. There’s the initial shock, the uncertainty about what’s to come, the joy of positive news, the fear of further complications and issues, and the difficulty of embracing a new reality. For some cancer survivors, it feels like the roller coaster keeps descending a lot more than it goes up. Every experience requires bravery, courage, and commitment to keep moving forward. 

That’s the experience that Survivor Fitness participant Nancy Lopez had throughout her diagnosis and treatment. In November of 2021, Nancy had her annual mammogram with no concerns. The next month, she was diagnosed with DCIS. Instead of opting for a lumpectomy, Nancy decided to get a double mastectomy. That turned out to be an important decision because it revealed a more aggressive cancer hiding behind the DCIS that didn’t show up on any screenings. In April of 2022, Nancy was required to undergo surgery for a hysterectomy caused by the treatment medication. Finally, in June of 2022, she had reconstruction surgery. 

“Discovering and Embracing the New Me”

After the whirlwind battle with cancer, Nancy struggled with the same struggles many cancer survivors experienced. She experienced weight gain, fatigue, weakness, and other physical side effects. 

“The most difficult part of my journey was realizing that I am never going to be the same again,” Nancy said. “I had to embrace the change in myself both physically and mentally.”

That’s when Nancy’s oncologist connected her with Survivor Fitness. As soon as she was cleared to start working out again, Nancy was connected with a trainer and began her 12-week program. Being part of the program helped Nancy address the ​​specific side effects of her treatment and surgeries. Today, she feels equipped with the necessary tools to continue her fitness routine.

“Sometimes I don’t feel like myself with all of these changes, but Survivor Fitness is helping me find and embrace the new me,” Nancy said. “I know what I need to do to implement the changes I want to make for my overall health and well-being.” 

“Cancer Doesn’t Have to Dictate Your Whole Life”

Like many Survivor Fitness participants, Nancy realized the program’s impact on the mental and emotional aspects of her recovery as well. She shared how the encouragement she received from her trainer meant just as much as what she learned about strength training.

“My trainer was so supportive and encouraging,” she shared. “He made the workouts fun, and we laughed a lot. I believe laughter is good for the soul.” 

After completing the program, Nancy recognized the difference that committing to physical fitness and wellness made on her journey as a survivor. Today, she feels stronger and has less pain.

“The program has given me confidence,” Nancy said. “It has shown me that I can do anything I put my mind to and that cancer doesn’t have to dictate your whole life.”

Looking for Inspiration and Encouragement on Your Recovery Journey?

Like every other Survivor Fitness participant, Nancy is an incredible inspiration to our entire community at Survivor Fitness. If you or someone you know is a cancer survivor looking to regain health and wellness after cancer, we’re here for you! 

Connect with us today to learn more about how Survivor Fitness can support you on your journey to regain health and strength after cancer.